Thursday, November 3, 2016

My Back Pages: The Politics of Hate

My Back Pages: The Politics of Hate:    I remember when President Barack Obama was elected. Suddenly, I had my email inbox filled with so many emails calling him an illegitimate...

The Politics of Hate

  I remember when President Barack Obama was elected. Suddenly, I had my email inbox filled with so many emails calling him an illegitimate president. So much hatred was directed at this man, from so many people that I counted as friends. Now... let me just tell you, I did not vote for the President in his first election. I didn't vote for him because I thought, at the time, that he did not have enough experience to be President. First of all, he had only been a Senator for a short time. Secondly,  and I say this with some distress today... I admired John McCain for his honor, and his service to this country.
  When President Obama ran for reelection, he had won us over. His talk of hope, and the example that he set, along with his beautiful wife, won me over. Race was never an issue. Religion, I could care less about. Yet, so many Americans called all of this into play. I had friends inundate my email with hateful anti-Obama emails. They called into question his citizenship (If they had checked.. his mother was an American Citizen, which automatically made him an American Citizen!) They called into question his religion. He is a Christian.. but there can be no religious test to become President. There were people that I had much respect for... that I served with in the Marine Corps... that took the radical and hate-filled road. I have to tell you, they did all of this before the man ever took office!
  I have no room in my heart for hate. I have no room in my life for people who would exclude others because of their ethnicity, their color, their religion, or their beliefs! I am hurt that so many would send me such hatred, and then be angry because I asked them to stop. These were people that I grew up with! These were members of my family! These were people that I served with! 
 I have lived in a world, with my beautiful wife, where we had no discrimination. We accept all, and we love all peace loving people. We came to grips, long ago, with the differences that people have. My beautiful wife is Jewish. I am someone who is still searching for the meaning of it all. I was raised Catholic, but I could not accept that this was the only answer to all of our problems. 
  So many people that I thought were my friends, discarded me like I was so much garbage, simply because I did not agree with their hatred. In the long run, it will be okay, because I am simply being true to myself, and my beliefs. I cannot tolerate hate of any kind. I am trying to become a bette person.
  I ask all of my like minded friends to continue on the path that they have chosen. Love and acceptance is the true path to love and enlightenment. Hate and anger only breeds more hate and anger.
  I salute President and Michelle Obama for setting an example of dignity, and what a beautiful family can be.
  If you don't agree with me.. you can simply post your hatred on your own walls. Hatred is not tolerated here. I will delete anything nasty that you have to say.
  While I'm at it... let me just say this... the Right makes a big deal about the Clintons being investigated for the last thirty years. Right! You just make my point. Secretary Clinton has never been charged with a crime; and, believe me, she would have, if only her enemies could find something. They have not.
  

Thursday, September 29, 2016

My Back Pages: My Take, 2016

My Back Pages: My Take, 2016: The election is coming up fast, and I have taken a lot of flack because of my adamant stance against the Republican candidate. That's a ...

My Take, 2016

The election is coming up fast, and I have taken a lot of flack because of my adamant stance against the Republican candidate. That's a shame. My opinion is my opinion, and it is the product of hours of research, years of following these candidates, and my own personal feelings.
  Now, I have been admonished by some that I should not state my opinions. Really? This is what elections and this whole idea of Democracy (capital 'D'!) is about! We are a free and open society. What we are not free to do is force our opinions on anyone else. We can write about them, talk about them, but it is not legal or 'free' to force your opinions on others. Now, we can, as I do, write about them. However, I cannot go to a friends house, without his or her permission, and post a sign on their lawn! It's just not the right thing to do, and it is not legal. I have been criticized because I objected to this, but I do not care. I respect others... I do not write or post my opinions on their virtual 'Lawns'.. and I expect the same respect. 
  Now, that being said.. I have to tell you why I do not like the Republican candidate.
 (1) I hate what he said about John McCain! Now, I do not agree with much of John's political stances, but I respect his opinions. John McCain is a genuine hero to me, and millions of others in this country. He was captured and tortured by an enemy that we were fighting, whether you think that particular war was right or not. He was offered the opportunity for an early release. However, the code says that those who were captured first, get release first. This was an attempt by the North Vietnamese to gain points by releasing the son of a high ranking military man. John refused, and they tortured him for it! Trump said : "John McCain is not a hero. He's considered a hero because he was captured, and I prefer those who were not captured, okay?"... this just makes me so angry! This son of a bitch never served on second in defense of his country! in fact, he faked an injury to avoid service. 
  I served, without question, because I was always taught that this was the price that we paid for living in a free country. This man never gave a thing! I think that he, and many like him, are cowards! They talk a good fight, but run for the hills when they are asked to serve. I didn't... i volunteered. So did so many of my fallen comrades.

 (2) His ridiculing of a disabled reporter. The man has Cerebral palsy, but this candidate ridiculed his disability. Further, one of his apologists, Ann Coulter, a hatemonger if there ever was one, said "Oh, he wasn't making fun of him. He was just imitating the everyday retard!"
 I resent this. I have a special needs sister that lives with us. She has the intellect of a 7 year old, and she is 60. How dare he, or his evil surrogate, ridicule her?
 (3) His treatment of women. This man has no regard for any woman. He makes sick statements about his own daughter, and how he would date her if she were not his daughter. Any man who has a daughter should be sickened by this.
 (4) His constantly changing lies. If you cannot see them, then you are blinded by his BS, and I feel sorry for you, and this country.
  (5) The birther controversy. This Son Of A B... continued this absolute nonsense long after it was disproved, and then he tried to blame it on his opponent, which has been disproved.
 (6) His infuriating statements, first "I was in Military School, so I feel that I served the same thing as someone who served in the military!" (Yeah, asshole? Were you ever shot at? Did you have any friends that were killed on the battlefield? You make me so angry, that I lose my pledge, for the moment, to not hate! I've lost friends, you phony, who really served their country!) 
 (7) "I sacrificed for this country. I built things...") You have never sacrificed a damned thing, you POS! I know so many people who have sacrificed so much for this country, for their families, for their communities, and you have never sacrificed a damned thing! 

  Now... This is my opinion. This is my opinion alone. If you do not feel this way, then go with your god, and post on your wall. This is mine! I am not looking to debate anyone. I don't look to change anyones mind... this is purely me. If you disagree... great.. we live in a country where we can disagree and not fear being arrested.. or killed.  
  I worry about this country. I worry about all the hate and xenophobia that permeates this campaign. I worry about the talk of building walls. I worry about these people who wish to force their religious views on every citizen of this country. I worry about those who would knock women's rights back fifty years, and would hold down the working people of this country. The policies of corporate deference would put the American Worker back to where they were at the beginning of the last century, and this is just unacceptable.
  I stand for equality for all, regardless of gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or sexuality. I stand for every American. I stand against anyone, ANYONE, who does not stand with me. 

 If you don't agree with me, that's fine. That's the privilege of living in an open society. You can disagree with me. This is the American way. I can only hope that right wins out over hate.
  I wish all Love, Peace, and Tranquility.
 John Zaffino Kent Lakes, New York
  September 28,2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016

My Back Pages: Who Decides What Makes Up A 'Real American'

My Back Pages: Who Decides What Makes Up A 'Real American':  The other day, my wife called attention to a post by someone she had known since she was a child. The person in question had been a friend ...

Who Decides What Makes Up A 'Real American'

 The other day, my wife called attention to a post by someone she had known since she was a child. The person in question had been a friend of her mother's. The post went something like this: 'You Liberal garbage who make remarks about the Bush family better watch out. Don't do it around real Americans!' 
  First of all, with all due respect to this woman, who are you to judge who a 'Real American' is? Secondly, who are you to call any citizen who has a different political viewpoint than you 'Garbage?' 
  In an effort to become a better human, even at my advanced age, I have been making a concerted effort not to let anger overcome me. Anger hurts the angry person much more than it does the focus of the anger. That person, or thing, is usually either oblivious or immune to your anger. However, this post by this woman really makes my blood boil. This seems to be the attitude of many people, on both sides of the political discussion, and this hurts me to my soul. 
  I think of all those who have given their all for this country because they believed in the principles that it was founded on. I don't recall anyone asking what side of the political spectrum that they sided with. I have lost several friends to war and, for the life of me, I can't recall ever asking what political party that they identified with. I don't remember anyone mentioning that "He was a life long Republican" or "He was a life long Democrat." I don't recall anyone ever calling any one of those who gave their lives 'Liberal Garbage!' I don't recall anyone saying "He was a Right Wing nut job!" Do you know why? Because they were just 'Americans,' plain and simple. They don't ask you what your political party is when you enlist. They don't ask you, when they are training you in boot camp, what you think of politics. If I recall correctly, the only thing that they taught us in boot camp was that we had to respect the chain of command, which started with the President, and all of those between your lowly enlisted behind and the Commander In Chief.
  I would ask this woman, who wraps herself in the Alt-Right part of the flag, Where the hell were you when my Progressive behind volunteered to serve this great country as a United States Marine? Where were you, when I flew to Okinawa and then on to Danang, Vietnam, in your name... in the name of every citizen of the United States? Where were you, my righteous friend, when I flew to Japan with a flight that also had many of my severely wounded brothers? Did you think, at the time, that they asked any one of those men, broken of body but not spirit, what damned political party that they belonged to? Do you think that this was even a consideration in the mind of the man (or woman) who wounded them?
  Finally, where the hell were you when we all came back? Were you there to welcome us home? Did you ever think, at the time, to reach out to some of these men and women who returned from that war, or any war? Or did you turn your head, when you saw one of the many who suffer from PTSD? 
  You, and people like you, make me forget for a moment what I am trying to do, and what I am trying to attain. Your anger and hatred directed at your fellow Citizens.... Yes, I said FELLOW CITIZENS, is despicable and it makes me sick and angry. You, who never sacrificed one second of your time to give anything up for your country, have every right to say whatever hateful thing that you want, and it's PROGRESSIVE GARBAGE like myself, and so many others, along with our brothers in arms who are on the right, who have sacrificed years of our lives, and put ourselves in harms way, in order to protect your right to free speech, no matter how hateful it is.
  So, continue your rants. Continue to spew forth all the hate and intolerance that you have in your black soul; we Progressive Garbage, and those on the right, will continue to strenuously protect your right to continue.
  I apologize to all of my friends on both sides of the political arena for getting angry. I do not wish to do so; but there is just so much even a peace-loving soul like myself can tolerate.

 As always, I wish you all Peace, Love, and Tranquility, and I urge to be kind to everyone that you come in contact with. We can make this world a better place if we really work together in harmony.
September 22, 2016
 John Zaffino Kent Lakes, New York

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Deplorable!



de·plor·a·ble

/dəˈplôrəb(ə)l/

adjective
What Is deplorable to me? A person running for president bullying everyone that I also in contention for the office. Calling someone low energy. Making fun of another as he eats. Giving negative names to everyone else who is running. Making fun of a female candidate's looks.Calling one candidate 'Little Marco'... calling another 'Lyin' Ted'.
  Making remarks about the looks wife of another candidate. Using every bullying tactic that he can find, while offering no substance to his own reason for running.
  It's deplorable that this man constantly lies, but his supporters excuse each and every lie. Challenging the citizenship of the President, saying that he had dispatched investigators to Hawaii to find out about the Presidents birth, and then saying 'What they are finding is just unbelievable!' Saying that the President's mother was never at the hospital where he was born. Saying that his grandmother said that the President was born in Kenya. He did this for five long years, and used this as a springboard to run for president. Each and every charge that he made was an out and out lie, and yet his supporters do not call him on it. 
  Inciting the throng at the Republican National Convention to chant "LOCK HER UP!" led by the Governor of New Jersey and the former Mayor of New York, both of them former prosecutors and should know better.
 It's deplorable that the aforementioned former mayor and federal prosecutor, Rudolph Giuliani, continues to make unsubstantiated charges against the former Secretary Of State, and it's deplorable that he leaps about on stage spitting and practically foaming at the mouth as he spouts his hate and vitriol.
 It's deplorable that this candidate incites those who attend his campaign speeches to attack anyone who would dare protest against the hate and lies that he consistently puts out there. It's deplorable that this candidate has now twice made remarks about assassinating the Democrat Candidate.
  It's deplorable that he constantly calls Senator Elizabeth Warren 'Pocahontas'... even though she get's back at him.
  it's deplorable that this man has made veiled threats against the news media covering his candidacy. One five foot two reporter had to be escorted to her vehicle by the Secret Service because of threats made by this man's supporters. it's deplorable that he said that he could stand the middle of a New York City street and shoot someone, and he would not lose a single vote.
  It's deplorable that he tells his supporters "Knock the hell out of hime, would ya?" 
  It's deplorable that he made fun of a reporter with cerebral palsy. It's even more deplorable that one of his far right supporters, Anne Coulter,  said that "Anyone could see that he was just acting like a regular RETARD, and not making fun of the reporter's handicap!" When called on her use of the word 'Retard', she just laughed it off.
  It's deplorable that he said that Senator John McCain was no war hero and that the only reason he was called a hero was because he was captured. "I like men who weren't captured, okay?" was his answer.

 I find it deplorable that he targets people of a certain religion for discrimination and his supporters cheer! I find it deplorable that one of his supporters attacked two women in New York City for wearing their hijab, and did it in his name. I find it deplorable that a man firebombed a mosque and said that he was this man's supporter. 
 I find it deplorable that this hateful man talks of putting up a wall along our borders, and calls people of Mexican descent murderers, rapists, and drug dealers. 
  I find it deplorable that he calls for a judge of Mexican descent to recuse himself from a lawsuit against this buffoon because "He's a Mexican!"  He calls the New York State Attorney General a 'Political Hack' because he is looking into wrong doing by this man.
  I find it deplorable that the Attorney General of Florida decided not to look into joining an investigation into alleged fraud by his 'University' after he gave her a substantial donation.
  I find it deplorable that he steadfastly refuses to release his taxes as every candidate has done in the past.
  I find it deplorable that this man constantly lies, every day, and does not seem to pay any price for it.
 I find it deplorable that he talks about "Shooting those people out of the water" for making gestures at our warships. I find it deplorable that he talks about using nuclear weapons in Europe like it would be the normal thing to do. 
 I find it deplorable that this .... coward.... got deferred because of bone spurs in his foot, and now he cannot remember which foot. He joins the ranks of such patriotic chickenhawks as Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Ted Nugent
 Finally, I find it deplorable that he is constantly excused for his bad acts by people whom I know are intelligent. They tell me "Oh, he's just rough around the edges because he's a businessman, not a politician!' Yes, he's a businessman who has gone bankrupt three times that I can think of. When I brought this up, I was told that he was just using the existing laws, so that's okay. Yes... it's okay, unless you are someone who worked for this man, or did work for him and were stiffed by him.
  Is this really what we've come to in this country? Once the beacon of freedom and justice for all in the world, we have become a laughing stock in the world. We should be a leader in the world when it comes to the way women are treated. We are not. 
 We should be number one in healthcare. We are not. We should be the leader in education. We no longer are. We should be the leader in the way that workers are treated. We were the ones to be admired, but that is no longer the case. 

 Now, I know that many of his supporters will come back at me with why Secretary Clinton is deplorable. Don't bother. I know all of the rhetoric that has been put out there and, frankly, I am tired of it. This has been a tiring campaign that started much too early. Somehow, the Party of Lincoln has been hijacked by a very dangerous charlatan. I am worried about the future of the country that I did not run away from when it needed my service. I am worried about the undercurrent of hate that has seemed to come bubbling to the surface during this campaign. I am worried about the future of my grandchildren, whom I love very dearly. I am concerned about the recent spate of antisemitism that has surface again, along with the anti Muslim hatred that seems to go hand in hand with it. I am worried about the anti immigrant rhetoric that gets more and more hateful every day!
  We need to remember that we are all immigrants to this country. The only natural citizens have been marginalized and had their land stolen from them.
 If my writing seems rambling, that's because I have not had a restful nights sleep in months. This country that I love- This beautiful Democratic Republic- seems to be on the verge of self destructing- turning itself over to someone who has no regard for individual rights, or the constitution. A man who says that he want's to protect the rights of citizens even as he talks about trampling on them. This is a man who's claim to fame is that he is a reality television star and a hit and miss business man who wants to be the first authoritarian president in this country's history. We should all be afraid.
I ask that everyone take a moment to reflect on their own actions since this hateful season began a year and so many months ago. I ask everyone to take a breath and try to be kind to everyone that they come in contact with. Make a good difference in the world.

 John Zaffino Kent Lakes New York
 September18, 2016
  •  

Deplorable!



de·plor·a·ble

/dəˈplôrəb(ə)l/

adjective
What Is deplorable to me? A person running for president bullying everyone that I also in contention for the office. Calling someone low energy. Making fun of another as he eats. Giving negative names to everyone else who is running. Making fun of a female candidate's looks.Calling one candidate 'Little Marco'... calling another 'Lyin' Ted'.
  Making remarks about the looks wife of another candidate. Using every bullying tactic that he can find, while offering no substance to his own reason for running.
  It's deplorable that this man constantly lies, but his supporters excuse each and every lie. Challenging the citizenship of the President, saying that he had dispatched investigators to Hawaii to find out about the Presidents birth, and then saying 'What they are finding is just unbelievable!' Saying that the President's mother was never at the hospital where he was born. Saying that his grandmother said that the President was born in Kenya. He did this for five long years, and used this as a springboard to run for president. Each and every charge that he made was an out and out lie, and yet his supporters do not call him on it. 
  Inciting the throng at the Republican National Convention to chant "LOCK HER UP!" led by the Governor of New Jersey and the former Mayor of New York, both of them former prosecutors and should know better.
 It's deplorable that the aforementioned former mayor and federal prosecutor, Rudolph Giuliani, continues to make unsubstantiated charges against the former Secretary Of State, and it's deplorable that he leaps about on stage spitting and practically foaming at the mouth as he spouts his hate and vitriol.
 It's deplorable that this candidate incites those who attend his campaign speeches to attack anyone who would dare protest against the hate and lies that he consistently puts out there. It's deplorable that this candidate has now twice made remarks about assassinating the Democrat Candidate.
  It's deplorable that he constantly calls Senator Elizabeth Warren 'Pocahontas'... even though she get's back at him.
  it's deplorable that this man has made veiled threats against the news media covering his candidacy. One five foot two reporter had to be escorted to her vehicle by the Secret Service because of threats made by this man's supporters. it's deplorable that he said that he could stand the middle of a New York City street and shoot someone, and he would not lose a single vote.
  It's deplorable that he tells his supporters "Knock the hell out of hime, would ya?" 
  It's deplorable that he made fun of a reporter with cerebral palsy. It's even more deplorable that one of his far right supporters, Anne Coulter,  said that "Anyone could see that he was just acting like a regular RETARD, and not making fun of the reporter's handicap!" When called on her use of the word 'Retard', she just laughed it off.
  It's deplorable that he said that Senator John McCain was no war hero and that the only reason he was called a hero was because he was captured. "I like men who weren't captured, okay?" was his answer.

 I find it deplorable that he targets people of a certain religion for discrimination and his supporters cheer! I find it deplorable that one of his supporters attacked two women in New York City for wearing their hijab, and did it in his name. I find it deplorable that a man firebombed a mosque and said that he was this man's supporter. 
 I find it deplorable that this hateful man talks of putting up a wall along our borders, and calls people of Mexican descent murderers, rapists, and drug dealers. 
  I find it deplorable that he calls for a judge of Mexican descent to recuse himself from a lawsuit against this buffoon because "He's a Mexican!"  He calls the New York State Attorney General a 'Political Hack' because he is looking into wrong doing by this man.
  I find it deplorable that the Attorney General of Florida decided not to look into joining an investigation into alleged fraud by his 'University' after he gave her a substantial donation.
  I find it deplorable that he steadfastly refuses to release his taxes as every candidate has done in the past.
  I find it deplorable that this man constantly lies, every day, and does not seem to pay any price for it.
 I find it deplorable that he talks about "Shooting those people out of the water" for making gestures at our warships. I find it deplorable that he talks about using nuclear weapons in Europe like it would be the normal thing to do. 
 I find it deplorable that this .... coward.... got deferred because of bone spurs in his foot, and now he cannot remember which foot. He joins the ranks of such patriotic chickenhawks as Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Ted Nugent
 Finally, I find it deplorable that he is constantly excused for his bad acts by people whom I know are intelligent. They tell me "Oh, he's just rough around the edges because he's a businessman, not a politician!' Yes, he's a businessman who has gone bankrupt three times that I can think of. When I brought this up, I was told that he was just using the existing laws, so that's okay. Yes... it's okay, unless you are someone who worked for this man, or did work for him and were stiffed by him.
  Is this really what we've come to in this country? Once the beacon of freedom and justice for all in the world, we have become a laughing stock in the world. We should be a leader in the world when it comes to the way women are treated. We are not. 
 We should be number one in healthcare. We are not. We should be the leader in education. We no longer are. We should be the leader in the way that workers are treated. We were the ones to be admired, but that is no longer the case. 

 Now, I know that many of his supporters will come back at me with why Secretary Clinton is deplorable. Don't bother. I know all of the rhetoric that has been put out there and, frankly, I am tired of it. This has been a tiring campaign that started much too early. Somehow, the Party of Lincoln has been hijacked by a very dangerous charlatan. I am worried about the future of the country that I did not run away from when it needed my service. I am worried about the undercurrent of hate that has seemed to come bubbling to the surface during this campaign. I am worried about the future of my grandchildren, whom I love very dearly. I am concerned about the recent spate of antisemitism that has surface again, along with the anti Muslim hatred that seems to go hand in hand with it. I am worried about the anti immigrant rhetoric that gets more and more hateful every day!
  We need to remember that we are all immigrants to this country. The only natural citizens have been marginalized and had their land stolen from them.
 If my writing seems rambling, that's because I have not had a restful nights sleep in months. This country that I love- This beautiful Democratic Republic- seems to be on the verge of self destructing- turning itself over to someone who has no regard for individual rights, or the constitution. A man who says that he want's to protect the rights of citizens even as he talks about trampling on them. This is a man who's claim to fame is that he is a reality television star and a hit and miss business man who wants to be the first authoritarian president in this country's history. We should all be afraid.
I ask that everyone take a moment to reflect on their own actions since this hateful season began a year and so many months ago. I ask everyone to take a breath and try to be kind to everyone that they come in contact with. Make a good difference in the world.

 John Zaffino Kent Lakes New York
 September18, 2016
  •  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

My Back Pages: Did You Ever Have The Feeling You Were Being ........

My Back Pages: Did You Ever Have The Feeling You Were Being ........:        If any of you are old enough to remember it, there was an old Warner Brothers cartoon that opened with Bugs Bunny looking out of his ...

Did You Ever Have The Feeling You Were Being ..... Watched?

       If any of you are old enough to remember it, there was an old Warner Brothers cartoon that opened with Bugs Bunny looking out of his rabbit hole and saying "Ah.. Did ya ever have the feeling you was being ...watched?"
      Well, back when that old cartoon was produced, old Bugs may have been a bit paranoid. These days, he is probably right!  Cell phones broadcast our every move. Apps on those phones and tablets tell corporations what our likes and dislikes are. Our home computers  keep track of every purchase, every site visited. If we are not extremely careful, malware from some of these sites can be downloaded without our knowledge and make our computers spies in our own homes. Surveillance cameras record us everywhere we go. Facial recognition software linked to these cameras scan us. Privacy has become nonexistent. Worrying about government surveillance is pointless because we are surveilled everywhere we go. Big Brother? There is more than one Big Brother or Big Sister, and they are all watching us. While we were busy going about our lives, they silently erased our privacy. We are bombarded by ads telling us how intelligent our vehicles are, our latest appliances are; they see hazards before we do, act before we can. They anticipate our next move, what we will need soon, and can order it, if we choose that option. Soon, there will be no option, it will just be done.
  When you type, the software anticipates what word will come next, what phrase, with increasing accuracy. Cars are starting to drive themselves. Soon, instead of being in the testing phase, this will become the norm. Computerized machinery is slowly taking over our every day tasks. A good thing? I have my doubts. Computer scientists project that a computer will become sentient somewhere about 2035. This  should give anyone who thinks about the future pause. This is our future, and we are being propelled headlong into it by the very technology that we've created and have come to rely on.
 Our future is breathtaking and a bit frightening. This is the price that humans always pay for progress! All I can say is, we are living in very interesting times, and they grow more interesting with every passing day. Good luck, everyone.
John Zaffino Kent Lakes, New York
September 8, 2016

Sunday, August 21, 2016

My Back Pages: Memories- Part 2

My Back Pages: Memories- Part 2: Memories -Part II Prelude I finished Part I with my thoughts on my Grandfather, Angelo Zaffino, and my loving relationship with him. It e...

Memories- Part 2


Memories -Part II
Prelude
I finished Part I with my thoughts on my Grandfather, Angelo Zaffino, and my loving relationship with him. It ended with his death and wake. Part I left me emotionally drained. I never expected that delving into my memories and writing them down would have such an effect on me, but it did. This, I think, is not a bad thing. It has enabled me to face things that had such a profound impact on my life, the good and the bad. 
  I will pick this up with my Grandmother, Theresa Zaffino. My Grandfather will also come into play here again, simply because they were inseparable for so many years. They had a love and understanding of each other that every couple that has ever been together, strived so hard to have. Not all are so successful, they were. It was a special relationship. They were an exceptional couple, at least in my opinion; and I admit that my opinion is one sided  because I loved them both.
 The years before I came to be are based on what I have heard from my Aunts and older cousins. I do, however, remember much of the interaction between my Grandmother and the peddler that used to come through. It seemed comical, but it was a tradition that they carried over from the old country - Italy. It's what helped make them so endearing and unique to me.

My Grandmother - Theresa Gullo Zaffino
  
 My Grandmother, like my Grandfather, was an immigrant from Serra San Bruno in Italy. She came to the United States for a better life. She came because she was in love with my Grandpa, Angelo Zaffino, and they were to be married. She did not know the language, and she, like Grandpa, knew very little about the country that they were emigrating to. They only knew that it held the promise of a better future. 
  They were married in Saint Joseph's Roman Catholic Church on Washington Avenue, in West New Rochelle. Her sister in-law, Rosa, would not allow photos to be taken. She insisted that the ceremony be quiet, so there are no pictures of that day, and no celebration after the ceremony. Zia Rosa, for some reason, was jealous of my Grandma. She was also a very lazy woman. My Great Uncle, Giuseppe, worked all day, and had to do much the cooking. She put my grandma down every chance that she got. This, I heard from my Aunt Mary. 
 Soon after they were married, my Grandfather decided that it would be a good idea to move their growing family to California. They moved to San Francisco, and while they were there, they lost one son to an illness. I'm not really sure what it was, but they were devastated by his loss. His name was Frank, and my father was named after him. 
 After a short time, and several earth tremors, grandma decided that she had enough, and insisted that they move back to New Rochelle.
  My father came into the world there on July 7, 1922. He was the second to the last child born to them. My Aunt Clara followed in December of 1924. 
 Through my Grandpa's hard work, and my Grandma's frugal accounting of there finances, they were able to buy a house on Everett Street. It was a nice stucco house, with two floors and enough room, by sharing, to raise their family. 
 My Grandfather worked very hard to become an American Citizen, a goal which he accomplished with great pride, despite having had to learn the English language and pass the citizenship test. My Grandmother, however, had no interest in becoming a citizen. She did have her green card, but stayed an Italian citizen until the day that she died. During World War II, she had to register as an enemy alien, and would report to city hall every week, even though she was married to a citizen. It wasn't an easy time for them.
  My Grandma handled the finances, and kept the family constantly afloat. When my Grandpa would worry that the taxes were due, she would simply say in Italian "Don't worry.. I already have the money for them!"  It was the same for any bill that was due: Water, Electric, whatever came up, she always had the money ready. Now, this was during the Great Depression... times were very hard for everyone, yet Grandpa managed to find work as a carpenter, and grandma shopped carefully for the food to feed the family. My father was still in school, as was my Aunt Clara, and my Uncle Salvatore 'Doody' (The way Tore sounded coming from an Italian) Zaffino got work through the WPA. My Aunt Clementine married Frank Deraffele, and he also got work through government programs. The family did much better than a lot of people. 
  The thing was, during those very hard times, people trusted each other. Store owners extended credit. People paid up when they could, and everyone seemed to work together to make life bearable. Italians, Irish, Jews, Germans..... all of the immigrant groups helped each other out. This was how they made it through the Great Depression. This was how Americans, those born here and those newly arrived, got through a very harrowing time. They put their differences on the back burner and did what they could to help each other out and to survive those dark times.
  
Aunt Clara, Cousin Dorothy, Grandma Theresa,
and Great Grandma Victoria Gullo
They had peddlers come through in those days, selling fruits and vegetables from the back of wagons and trucks. In the early thirties to the early forties, there were still horse drawn carts that roamed the neighborhoods. The Ice man,the fruit and vegetable man, the pot and pan peddler, not to mention the rag man who collected all torn garments...all came through the streets, selling their wares. There were peddlers who came door to door and sold all kinds of sundry goods on credit. It was a much different world back then.
  The fruit and vegetable man would come into the neighborhood crying out what he had to offer. I remember him crying out "Peaches, plums, carrots, Watermelon! Watermelon! Watermelon!" 
  Grandma would go out to look over what he had to offer and haggle with him. They would go back and forth on prices. Then he would tell her, in Italian, that that was the best that he could do. Grandma would say "No. That's too much!" and go back into the house. A few minutes later, he would knock on the door. "Señora, come, i give you a better price!"  In the end, she got what she wanted, and I suspect, that he got what he wanted, too.
  
 That's a little bit more of a back story than I intended, but these stories sometimes take on a life of their own. Back to the main story, then.

After Grandpa's Death

 After my grandfather was laid to rest, things did not return to normal. My grandmother, such a force of nature, took his death very hard. She cried a lot and seemed to shrink visibly, at least in my eyes. She always seemed so tough, but that toughness seemed to have died with my grandfather. My father and mother, and my aunts and uncles tried to bolster her spirits, but to no avail. What was worse, my Aunt Anne, who lived with my grandfather and grandmother, liked to go out at night after work. She worked for New York Telephone, and worked split shifts, which meant that she was off usual between 8 and 9 PM. 
  The house was empty without my grandfather there, and my grandmother felt the walls closing in on her. My aunt was adamant that she would not change her lifestyle, and I suppose that she was right; but grandma was full of grief and hated to be left alone. 
  My father would go over in the evenings and spend time with her, and my aunts and uncles would come and have coffee and cake and comfort her; but it was when she was alone that she grieved the most. 
  They had a family talk and tried to get Aunt Anne to at least commit to staying home a couple of nights a week, but this did not work. Finally, my parents came up with a solution. They asked 7 year old me if I would mind staying with my grandmother at night. 
  Now, we lived right next door to her, so that wasn't a problem. A plus for me was that I would have a room to myself; and to someone that had to share cramped quarters with his siblings, this was a real plus. Besides, I really loved my grandmother, and It was nice to be around her, even though she was not herself.
  So, I would come home from school, have dinner and go right next door to spend the evening and the night with grandma. Many nights, I would also have dinner with her. After dinner, we would retire to the living room and either listen to the radio, or watch the limited choices on television. There were very few choices for me in those early days. We would watch Life Is Worth Living with Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. The Loretta Young Show, something called the Halls Of Ivy, and, if I was lucky, Science Fiction Theater with Truman Bradly. 
  At nine o'clock, my grandmother would make me warm milk and give me a cookie, and we would go upstairs to bed. Some nights, I would hear her softly crying in her bed. It made my young heart ache.
  My memory has faded somewhat about this time in our lives, so I honestly cannot tell you what length of time that I stayed with my grandmother. My grandfather died in August of 1953, and my Grandmother did not follow him until a year and four months later. 
 My recollection is that it was several months that I spent with her, but I could be wrong on the time frame. I remember that my cousin, Bob Iannuzzi, went in the Navy in the Autumn of 1954, and I believe that I was with Grandma at that time. I know that I was with her in December of 1954.
  Somehow, we made it through two Christmases without my Grandfather. The Christmas days came and went, with all the old traditions, like making the rounds... visiting all of the relatives homes to exchange Christmas greetings, and the adults saluting each other and the Christ Child. It amazes me, at my advanced age, how no one was concerned about the effects of all of those shots on the visitors as they all made their way to each home in our rather large Italian family. That no one got into an accident is a miracle.
   That Christmas Holiday season, I spent keeping my grandmother company. Christmas came and went, and we were going supposed to visit my cousins Dorothy and Joan in Fort Dix right after New Year's Day. My Uncle Jack was a Career Military man, and he and my Aunt Clara and the two girls were stationed in Fort Dix New Jersey at the time. 
  I don't remember the exact date that my Grandmother was taken by ambulance to the hospital. I just know that it was before New Years Day. I remember being woken up and hearing her saying to my Aunt Anne "I gonna die!"... Aunt Anne kept trying to reassure her that she was not going to die. There were ambulance attendants there, and they determined that she should be taken to the hospital.
  She was in the hospital for several days, and the adults in the family visited her to keep her company. Her spirits were not good. She was suffering from heart failure and was not improving. My cousin Bob Iannuzzi came home on leave from the Navy and visited her.
I was still staying at the house... now to keep Aunt Anne company. Late one night, early morning really, the phone rang. I hear my aunt saying "I understand, Dr. Bernstein. Yes, I know that you've done all that you can. Thank you, Dr. Bernstein." With that, I knew that my grandmother, too, had now died. This was all very hard for my seven year old mind to comprehend. I had an idea what death was, but, at that age, you really don not understand the concept.
  The adults all went to the wake, which, in those days, was three days long. They would return to my grandparent's home and speak in hushed tones, drinking and eating. The looks on their faces was frightening for such a young man.
  After the funeral, they had the usual meal, and all of the relatives sitting around and exchanging stories about grandma and grandpa, many of them very funny. It was a celebration of their lives, and it was long overdue. The visitors came and went for the first week or so, then they slowed to a trickle, and finally stopped. The final chapter in the lives of Angelo and Theresa Zaffino was finally written. It was a sad time for all of us, and I have never stopped thinking about them even after all of these years. 
Theresa and Angelo Zaffino
  I will be 70 years old in two months, and I can still see the faces of these beautiful immigrants anytime that I wish. All I have to do is think of them, and they come to me across the years. Even though I only had them for a short time, they had a large impact on my life. I will carry those memories of them to eternity.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

My Back Pages: Memories - Part I

My Back Pages: Memories - Part I: First Memories Me, Age 2 My earliest memory is of my Great Uncle Giuseppe dying. I was about three years old... maybe a little younger,...

Memories - Part I

First Memories
Me, Age 2
My earliest memory is of my Great Uncle Giuseppe dying. I was about three years old... maybe a little younger, and I remember my Aunt Anne saying that Zi Peppine had died. He was my Grandfather Angelo's brother. I remember everyone being very hushed, and the crying that came from Uncle Joe's house. Many memories from this time are hazy, but I remember being treated as something special by my aunts and uncles because I was my father's first born.
 My father worked for General Motors in Tarrytown, NY at the time. He worked on the assembly line. We lived in my Grandmother's house on Everett Street at the time, and I remember waking up very early in the morning as my father showered and shaved and went about his morning business. I could smell the heady aroma of the coffee percolating in the pot downstairs, and the sound coming from the kitchen as my mother and grandmother prepared breakfast. I would sit in my grandfather's lap as the toast was buttered and the coffee poured. My father was out the door by 05:00 AM because he worked the early shift. After he left, my mother would tuck me back in the bed to finish my night's sleep.

Night Terrors
 I slept in a room with my parents in my Grandparent's house until my mother and father found an apartment of their own. Some nights, I would have a waking dream that terrorized me. I would be in my bed, and I would hear the front door slam shut, followed by loud, heavy footsteps on the stairs. Whoever it was would start whistling a tune as he climbed the stairs to the second floor. I would hear him in the hallway coming towards my room, still whistling, his footsteps getting louder and louder as he came. He had to come through my Grandparent's room to get to mine, but they were not there. They were either downstairs listening to the radio, or outside sitting on the porch, which made no sense, since whomever this was had to walk past them to get in the house. But this is a waking night terror, so it didn't have to make complete sense. I heard him walking through my grandparent's room and cross into mine, his footsteps ringing loud in my ears. I was paralyzed with fear, and I squeezed my eyes shut, trembling in terror. Then, the whistling stopped. I felt, rather than heard, him approach my bed. I could feel him standing there, staring down at me. I could hear his breathing, and I felt him bend over me. I wanted to scream, but I couldn't. I tried to open my eyes, but try as I might, I could not. I had lost complete control of myself. I felt his hot breath on my cheek and smelled the garlic and mint on his breath. He reached out to touch my cheek, and I could do nothing. Finally, I could hear his footsteps retreating out of the room, to the hallway, and back down the stairs. The front door slammed shut, and finally I started to cry very loud. My mother was at my side in an instant comforting me. I would tell her about the man and she would reassure me that it was just a dream. She would stay with me until I drifted back off to sleep. This happened to me many times when we lived there. I was three years old.

Severe Anemia and Grandpa Saves the Day
 When I was having these night terrors, I also started to become very weak and listless. At times, I had trouble even holding my head up. My worried mother took me to the pediatrician. Doctor Samuels diagnosed me with severe anemia, but could not determine a cause. He prescribed something to boost my blood, but nothing seemed to help. Finally, he told my mother to mix raw egg yolks with sugar and to give that to me. I remember sitting on my Grandpa Angelo's lap and him feeding me the egg yolks. I can still remember that I really liked the taste of it. Grandpa would also have me sip some homemade red wine and eat some good Italian food while sitting in his lap. Slowly, I started to improve and was soon running around and playing again. I don't know if it was the medicine, the egg yolks, or the wine and Italian food. I like to think it was my loving grandpa that made me better. By the way, Aunt Mary gave me Grandpa's bombla, which he used to hold a glass or two of wine. 
 It was never determined what caused my anemia, or why I became so weak so quickly. I never became anemic again until I reached the ripe old age of 67. At that time, I didn't feel weak or sick; it just turned up in a routine blood test. I'm no longer anemic, so that's a plus.

First Blood
 The first time that I fell and made myself bleed, I was about three. I remember skinning my knee, and seeing the blood for the first time, I thought that it looked like strawberry jam (Hey! What did I know? I was only three!) Anyway, I was aware that it hurt a bit, but was fascinated by the blood... until I tasted it.... it didn't taste anything like strawberry jam, so I started to cry. I kept saying that I didn't want to die! My grandmother, trying to comfort me, kept saying "No worry, John, you no gonna die!" I, however, was not convinced, so I continued to cry until my mother scooped my up and took care of my hurt, the knee and feelings. My mother could always be counted on for that. 

Living In The Late 40's - Early 50s
 For the first few years of my life, as I wrote earlier, we lived in my Grandparent's house. In those days, TV was not really the center of entertainment, Radio was. My Grandparents had a huge radio, I think that it was an Emerson, a floor model that sat between the sofa and my Grandmother's chair. My Grandfather liked to sit by the window that looked out on the porch, and Everett Street, so that's where his chair was placed. When the radio was turned on, it took a few minutes for the tubes to warm up so that the radio would play. My grandparent's liked to listen to the Italian language stations, so that is what we would do in the early afternoon. Later on, we would listen to Jack Benny, Fred Allen, and all the big comedians of the day. Then the radio plays would start. The Whistler, The Shadow, The Inner Sanctum, Lights Out.... just the kind of shows that a youngster like me should not listen to before going to bed. It set the tone early on for the kind of programming that I would love for my entire life.
  My mother would listen to the soaps during the day as she went about her daily chores. Young Doctor Malone, The Guiding Light, Stella Dallas... just a few of the 15 minute Soap Operas that were on at that time. They were sponsored by Rinso White and Rinso Blue, Oxydol, Geritol, and Serutan. There were others, too numerous to mention, but they were almost as entertaining as the shows themselves. In the early afternoons, we were treated to the Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, Little Orphan Annie, and Captain Midnight.. shows for kids. I loved them all. 
 It was a great time to be a little kid. Television was still very new and had not really caught fire yet, and therefore did not have the chance to corrupt us. Radio was entertaining, but it was much more fun to play outside with our cousins and our friends. My aunts and uncles were always around, and they always had a joke or a kind word for a toddler like me.  The world seemed filled with the warmth and love of family.

 Grandpa Zaffino
Theresa and Angelo Zaffino- Grandma and Grandpa
  My Grandpa was long retired by the time I came along. I remember him with his big white mustache and his twinkling eyes. He had been a carpenter for most of his life, and now he was old and had all of the health issues that come along with age. His brother, Zio Pepine, had built an ironworks business that, since his death, was now run by his sons. My grandpa was well loved by the young men and, even before Zio Pepine had died, they would come by and say "Hey Pete.. do you want to take a ride with us?" (They called him 'Pete' because of his mustache. The young men in those days called the older Italians 'Mustache Petes.') He would smile and nod his head yes. He loved to go along with them on jobs.
 Grandpa would often go to West New Rochelle, in the Italian neighborhood, to play cards and drink vino with his cronies. He liked to smoke the Dinobli cigars which really had a horrible smell, and my grandma would not allow in the house. Sometimes, he would come home late for dinner and sit at the table and say in Italian "Isn't anyone eating in this house?" My grandma would look at him sharply, and keep doing what she was doing. Then he would repeat the question. She would turn and say "If someone came home at dinner time, then someone would eat!" She would then make his plate for him. This would happen every so often, but they never were really angry with each other. There was a very deep love between the two of them that was palpable. One would never go to bed without the other. Promptly at nine PM, they would go to the kitchen and have warm milk, then climb the stairs together to bed. 
 The ice-cream man would come to our street in the summer with his bells jingling. Grandpa would be sitting on the front porch in his rocker, and I would be playing in the front landing so that he could watch me. He would look at me with that twinkle in his eye, and reach into his pocket and pull out a dime. He would take my hand and bring me to the truck to buy me an ice-cream. Sometimes, my aunts or my parents would say "Papa, no... you'll spoil him, and he will expect you to buy him ice-cream all of the time!" Grandpa would just smile that beatific smile as he watched me enjoy the treat. He was so sweet to me. I miss him to this day. I'm not a believer in an afterlife, but if there was one, I would hope that I would see this loving man again. I was only seven when he died, and that was just not enough time to have spent knowing him.
  Grandpa suffered from high blood pressure and in order to try to get his blood pressure down, the doctor told him that he had to cut down on salt. He prescribed a salt substitute, which grandpa hated and refused to use. Grandpa was not a big eater, but he enjoyed his food and it had to be properly seasoned.
 When my Aunt Anne bought a television for the house, my grandmother and grandfather loved the latest technological advance. They would watch Art Linkletter's House Party, Arthur Godfrey, and Gary Moore's show. I remember that Bing Crosby's brother, Bob, also had a show. My Grandpa's favorite show was Perry Como. He took delight in the famous crooner's songs, and when Perry would wave to the camera and say "Goodnight, everybody," grandpa would wave at the television and say "Goodnight-a, Perry Como!" My father and my aunts would say; "Papa... he can't see you!" Grandpa would reply "He sees-a me! He look-a right at-a me and say-a Goodnight!" They could not convince him that television was a one way thing.

 In 1953, Grandpa was 77 years old and in failing health. One night, he was suffering from discomfort that he thought was indigestion. He went to the bathroom to try to relieve himself. Thinking that he had been in the bathroom too long, Grandma went in to check on him and found him slumped over. She called my father and he called an ambulance, but it was too late. Angelo Zaffino, my loving grandpa, was dead at the age of 77. I heard grandma telling my father and my aunts and uncles that when she went to check on him, his fingers were turning blue. 
 In those days, the wake was three days long followed by the funeral. I remember everyone gathering at my grandparents house. We lived right next-door. I remember seeing my mother cooking in the kitchen and crying. 
  The whole neighborhood was in mourning. Grandpa and Grandma's house was filled with the coming and going of friends, relatives, and neighbors; the men, all dressed in dark suits and starched white shirts, wearing their best fedoras, the scent of bay rum or Old Spice left in their wake.  The women, all dressed in their finest dark dresses, wearing hats and veils, all with pained looks on their faces. They all spoke in hushed tones as they hovered around grandma. She sat in Grandpa's chair, the picture of grief, smelling salts always at the ready. 
 Children, in those long ago days, were not allowed to attend the wake or the funeral. All I knew was that my Grandpa had died, and I had an empty feeling inside of me. He had helped nurse me through a mystery illness that they all said almost killed me. He would take me in his lap and let sip wine from his glass and I would glory in his benevolent presence and his smiling face. No more would I be able to visit him out in the garden, in his chair by the carefully maintained fig tree and the basilica and tomato plants. No more would I see the happy twinkle in his eye when he saw me. He was my father's father, but he was that majestic, happy soul who seemed to grow bigger when I came to see him. He was a radiant soul, and now he was gone.