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James E. Allen Etchings – Brazilian Builders

For Sale

I am the great-nephew of artist James E. Allen and I have several works his for sale including the following:

Brazilian Builders, (1933) Eight Men On Block and Tackle
19”x12” (16 ¾ x 8 ½ Image) Pencil Signed Etching #59 Mary Ryan Gallery Catalog 1984
Reference: Ryan #59 Condition: Excellent
Inscription: “To Leonard (Schroder?)”

Price: $4,200

This is an original, signed etching by famed artists James E. Allen. It is NOT a copy.

Serious Inquiries Only May Be Directed To This Site


James Edmund Allen was born on February 23, 1894 in the small town of Louisiana, located on the west bank of the Mississippi in Pike County, Missouri. Three years later, he moved with his family to a rural area on Mill Creek just outside Anaconda, Montana. There, his parents William Henry Allen and Annie May Scoggins raised their small family. The family had moved west to join cousins already in the area and involved with mining and timber interests. This was still the untamed west, full of excitement, intrigue and danger.

Growing up in Montana, James became known as “Edd” to his family and friends. With his younger brother, Elmer Leroy Allen (1896-1971), Edd developed a love for the rugged outdoor life in Montana. Edd liked horses and often accompanied his father and brother on hunting trips far into the rugged mountains that surround Anaconda. It was here that Edd first began developing his skills as an artist, concentrating on outdoor scenes portraying men at work. This style, portraying the muscle of America, became the hallmark of his future success as an artist.
James Edmund Allen

Edd worked with one of the Allen owned timber companies in Anaconda as a flume yard operator. The work was hard and dangerous. In his free time, he continued to hone his artistic skills and spend time with his family and friends. A tall, good looking young man, Edd soon fell in love with and married the young Grace Parmelee who was born January 8, 1899. The couple’s first child, Charlotte May was born November 4, 1917. At the outbreak of World War I, Edd joined the United States Armed Forces along with younger brother Elmer, known as Lee. Both brothers arrived in the European theater in 1917 where they served with the American Expeditionary Forces in Germany. Lee served with the Army as a horseman, breaking horses while Edd became a 2nd Lieutenant and flier.

After returning from the war in Europe, Edd resumed his work as an illustrator and artist with renewed vigor, living among other artists in the well-known Interlaken Colony near Asbury Park, New York. His second daughter, Jo Ann, was born November 24, 1923. In 1925, he traveled to Paris where he shared a studio with fellow printmaker Howard Cook. There he experimented with various artistic media, making lithographs and etchings for the first time. Forced by the Depression to return to the United States, he moved back to New York, where he continued to hone Edd in WW I his skills as a printmaker under Joseph Pennell and William Auerbach-Levy. Industrial scenes from the post-depression era that portrayed the muscular images of men working on railroads, buildings, and bridges began to form a large part of his graphic subject matter. Examples include The Builders (etching, 1932), The Accident (etching, 1934), Spider Boy (etching, 1937), The Flats (lithograph, 1937) and Distress (lithograph, 1938).

In the decade from 1930 to 1940, Edd’s work found great commercial success in the pages of many favorite magazines including Collier’s and Good Housekeeping. In addition to illustrations for single articles, Edd’s illustrations would also support a series of stories, as was the case with Emma-Lindsay Squier’s series of pirate stories, which appeared in Good Housekeeping from 1932 to 1935. While his repertoire was versatile and energetic, Edd’s illustrations most always portrayed people of determination, action and strength. In addition to achieving success as a commercial illustrator, Edd also contributed to the short story genre with western tales of life on the ranch.

Despite the demands of a busy life, Edd always remembered his father with much love and affection. During a visit from his father on January 27, 1930, he painted a portrait of the elder Allen as a gift at Dann’s Station, Trenton, New Jersey. In 1939, he penciled an original work as a Christmas present for his father. It shows two bears on a mountain cliff looking down into a valley with a road suggesting progress winding toward them. The lovely work is inscribed simply: “To my straight shooting dad, Christmas 1939.”

Edd died September 9, 1964 at Larchmont in the state of New York where he had lived for many years. He left a legacy of very fine art that is just now beginning to reach its fullest appreciation with the American public. His works are in demand and may be found for sale today in the catalogs of several prominent art dealers. In the spirit that was ingrained in his work, James Edmund Allen lived the American dream of imagination, daring, hard work and success.

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A Man Named Mogg

Sometimes voices from years ago ring clear in our heads as though they were heard just yesterday. Then they are gone.

Over five decades ago I was already an established writer going to high school. I say “established” because I had already been paid as a writer since the age of 14. I took Journalism as an elective subject almost every semester at Sylmar High just for the fun and sheer enjoyment involved in writing. I loved language. In all of my journalism experiences, including sports editor for the school paper, my teacher was one Mr. Albert Mogg. He was a young man in his thirties at the time and little did I suspect that this teacher would have such an impact on my life.

Mr. Mogg taught me solid journalism, something that is totally lacking in today’s news. I learned, despite my enthusiasm, that editorials were reserved for the editorial page and not the front page above the fold. I learned basic reporting, journalistic writing, editing and even type setting in my many classes with Mr. Mogg. In short, I learned the art of informative and persuasive communication. This was a stark departure from my published poetry and short stories and I enjoyed every minute of it. I sought out every nuance of journalism and Mr. Mogg was always there providing the fuel for my mind’s engine.

Hidden in the sands of the curriculum I always found a few special gems. One in particular has stood out my entire life. I was writing an fiery editorial on some petty campus injustice and I had to run the copy by Mr. Mogg before publication in our school paper. Instead of lancing me with the usual red pen, he asked me to sit down and listen. He started something like this: “Allen, you’re a good writer – actually a great writer but I have some important advice.” He applauded my intent in editorial writing but questioned my approach. Speaking about opposing injustice, he stated solemnly: “If you want to kill an opponent, don’t bludgeon him to death with a sledge hammer. Be more discrete and silently slit his throat.” I pondered that statement for months and finally made it part of my lifetime writing dictum. I embrace it today as much as I did as a teenager fifty years ago. In many ways it now defines much of my writing.

Although I had a passion for writing, I was a normal hormone driven teen and a rowdy surfer as well. I favored blonds, booze and a long board when I wasn’t pounding a typewriter. Apparently, it showed. I used to have a bottle of Sloe Gin in “the cage.” That was a glass walled-off room where the typewriters’ noise would not escape into the classroom. Tame by today’s standards, it was a major big deal back then. Mr. Mogg would see the bottle but in keeping with his own advice he would just bow his head after class and quietly say, “Rizzi, the way you’re going you’re going to wind up marrying an alcoholic blonde with big tits!” I thought he was full of shit at first, then I remembered the knife. The notion stuck.

After high school, I became friends with Mr. Mogg as a colleague of sorts. I became an English teacher and would see him throughout the years. I remember visiting him at his apartment during the divorce from his first wife. We had long discussions that often centered on the moral state of society. He was a huge intellect but also frequently the counterpoint to my overdrive personality. As I had become aggressive in pursuing my ambitions, he would often ask, “Is there anything that you wouldn’t do for money?” I would always answer ” hell no” when I knew in my gut that in fact I would never do anything just for the money. I proved that point to myself a few years later when I graduated law school and walked away from that world because of its lack of morals. We enjoyed playing each other’s Devil’s Advocate and in the end I felt we may have learned more than a bit from each other. He even told me of his plan to change his name; he never liked Mogg. He wanted it to be Thomas David Clayton. I remember nodding in tacit approval.

A couple of years on found me married, divorced and raising my only child by myself. I had entered the music business and I would occasionally visit Mr. Mogg and his new wife where they lived in California’s high desert. He was always supportive of my endeavors even if I hadn’t turned out to be a super journalist. He became more than a mentor and a bit of a true friend. I measure true on quality rather than quantity as we did not in fact spend tons of time together. I recall in particular a time when I was feeling frustrated while raising a young child by myself. He invited me to drive up to visit him and go have dinner together at a Shakey’s Pizza. Those simple gestures were so much appreciated at a time when my own life seemed always to be so turbulent.

Then time did what it too often does the best. Me and Mr. Mogg lost track of one another. I would think about him throughout the next few decades, wondering often where he was and where his new name had taken him. I would smile in quiet moments at the advice once given after I was remarried and once again whole and happy. Finally in 2014, I used my investigative skills to track him down. With some difficulty, I found his phone number and called straight away. A woman’s voice answered the phone and I asked for him by his new name. As she cupped the phone, I heard her ask, “Do you know someone named Rizzi? He says he was a student of yours at Sylmar High.” He finally came to the phone and we slowly tried to initiate a renewal of our relationship from so long ago.

I explained to this man how much influence he had made on my life and thanked him profusely for his efforts in dealing with “youth interrupted” so many decades before. I told him that I now figuratively cut throats daily and that I had discarded the heavy hammer years ago. He was pleased. Then I added. “Remember what you said about marrying a big-titted blonde? Well, I didn’t. I married a big titted brunette.” He laughed but then told me abruptly that he was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease and that he had good and bad days. Although the mood had turned somber, I tried to be supportive and we agreed to stay in touch.

We stayed in contact off and on and he revealed to me that his Parkinson’s Disease was progressing to the point that his memory often failed. I understood. He told me some great stories about him and his father during their car trips and I learned a whole new dimension of a man named Mogg. We talked, we remembered together and then one day I realized it had been a while since we had spoken. I hesitated. When you reach my age, you are often afraid to call an older person you haven’t spoken to in a while for fear of the inevitable. So I put off calling.

Today, I started writing this post simply as a tribute to an old friend without knowing how the story would end. Remember what I said about investigative skills? You guessed it. I did only two minutes of research on the computer to find out what I should have learned by having the guts to make one simple phone call:

Thomas David Clayton departed this life on Wednesday, October 11, 2017. He was born July 5, 1931 in Wheaton, IL. Tom is remembered for his love of flying, teaching, and travel. He is survived by his beloved wife of nearly 50 years, Mary Lou Clayton, three daughters, and six grandchildren.

Today I have learned Mr. Mogg’s last lesson left to me with a heavy heart: Do not fear the fear of a disconnected phone. The time is always now.

RIP my friend, Mr. Mogg.

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Shades Of Richie

Tomorrow will mark the 59th anniversary of the death of Richie Valens.

Most of us “non-millennials” have heard of Richie Valens. He was the one who brought us Donna and La Bamba before dying tragically in an airplane crash in 1959. I remember vividly singing along to both of these songs when I was a teenager a few years later. The line, “I had a girl, Donna was her name….” still echoes in my musical consciousness. For me the memories of Richie Valens are stronger than most. Here’s why:

Richie Valens was born Richard Steven Valenzuela on May 13, 1941 in Pacoima, California. Pacoima is just a stone’s throw from the town of San Fernando, where I grew up. I knew the turf well when I was a kid. It was a tough landscape that was unyielding and hostile to anyone who didn’t have the sand to survive. Richie and I both survived the San Fernando experience. That’s the first thing we have in common. Although we never met, living in San Fernando taught us both those keen survival instincts.

Richie went to San Fernando High School after graduating Pacoima Junior High School but never finished. He left high school in the autumn of 1958 to pursue his music career full-time. By then he was already a star. I, on the other hand, attended neighboring Sylmar High School and graduated in 1966. In 1970, I began teaching at San Fernando High School where Richie Valens had already been a legend for 12 years. To this day, this high school is known as the home of Richie Valens. My time at San Fernando High School as a teacher is something I will always treasure. The school had that old-time spirit that is simply lacking in most schools today. My classes were composed mainly of Black and Mexican students, many of whom I am still in touch with through internet sites such as

Donna was a real person, not just a name in a song. Her real name was Donna Ludwig. She was a typical teenage girl of the late 1950’s but her independent streak gave her the gumption to date Valens against the vehement opposition of her father. Her father managed a Packard automobile dealership in Beverly Hills. She never forgave her father for his “bigoted” rejection of Valens or for the recording deal he pressured her into after the singer’s death. Her father wasn’t fond of Richie even after he immortalized his daughter in his chart busting song of 1958. She left home at 18 and later married three times and was known by the name of Donna Fox-Coots. She rarely gave interviews throughout the years but did contribute to the 1987 movie La Bamba. In an odd coincidence, I delivered papers as a kid to the Ludwig family. They always treated me well but then I was just a lowly paperboy who came to the door once a month to collect for the San Fernando Sun newspaper.

Valens had a fear of flying due to a freak accident at his junior high school when on January 31, 1957 two airplanes collided over the playground, killing or injuring several of his friends. I remember this incident very well. It was a terrible tragedy that made me always look up when I was on the playground as a kid. Richie overcame his fear of flying because of the demand for touring across the United States. I overcame my fears, not for touring success, but for the necessity of work commitments. That’s another thing we have in common.

Irony surrounds his death. Richie Valens died in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa on February 3, 1959 along with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. He was only 17 years old. Valens was only on the plane because he won a coin toss with Holly’s backup guitarist Tommy Allsup for the last seat on the plane. Holly’s bassist, Waylon Jennings, voluntarily gave up his seat on the plane to J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper), who was ill with the flu. It is often stated that this was the only coin toss that Valens every won. The tragedy inspired singer Don McLean to write his 1971 hit “American Pie”, immortalizing February 3 as “The Day the Music Died”.

Richie Valens is buried at the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in San Fernando, California. This is also the resting place of my grandmother, Anna Maria Flor Rizzi who died just a few months before Valens. I have been to this cemetery many times over the decades to share my thoughts with both. It is this cemetery that also brings Richie Valens’ memory into my life so often.

Valens will always be remembered by the public as a pioneer of Chicano and Latin Rock. He influenced many in the music world, including Los Lobos, Los Lonely Boys, and Carlos Santana, as he had become nationally successful at a time when very few Latinos were in American rock and pop music. To me, he’ll be remembered more personally as the pride of my hometown and an inspiration in my own musical evolution. There will always be shades of Richie in my life.

Here’s the original recording of Donna:

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Genealogy For Hire

We all seem to want to know about our family history. Who were our ancestors? What did they do? Where were they from? How did they live? What do we have in common with them? These questions can be answered through acquiring a professional genealogist.

For the past 25 years, I have done numerous genealogy projects for people all over the world. I specialize in American, Native-American, English, German and Italian family histories with a talent for the location and translation of original source documents written in foreign languages. Projects include: Simple family trees, complex ancestry reports, location of distant cousins, origin and meaning of surnames, immigration records and verification of existing genealogy. Projects are as simple or as complex as the client wishes.

I wanted to post this information as some of you may not be aware that I do professional genealogy research at very affordable prices. You can find all the details, including pricing, at this website:

Please get in touch through the above web page with your specific requests and I will let you know immediately if and how I may be of service. Thanks.

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Senior Lives Matter Too

This is an update to my June 3, 2016 blog post:

Many of us have been around long enough to have seen the rotation of special attention focused on various members of our society. They have all been worthy concerns and extra amplification of the problems of some certain groups of our citizenry is to be applauded. We have dealt with the plight of the Native-Americans, African-Americans, American war veterans, Hispanics, Dreamers and illegal immigrants. Their lives and concerns definitely matter. The attention has been merited. The black lives matter movement has been countered with blue lives matter. Everyone is right; no one is wrong. Everyone matters.

Over the years we have also given special attention to teenagers with depression, homosexuals, obese people and those with every imaginable difference, disease, problem or affliction. These also have been worthy of some extra governmental help. There is only one group of our population which has not received any recognition or help: senior citizens of America. Why?

Before anyone goes there, yes there was briefly a gray panther movement and yes there is an organization named AARP. Both have done next to zero to promote the respect and well-being of almost 15 percent of our population. What has the rest of the country done for its older citizens? The answer in one word is squat. This large percentage of America’s citizenry is, on the whole, totally ignored. Seniors are most often expected to stay quiet and simply go away. (They all do eventually.) Even our government appears like the three monkeys on the subject of seniors.

This year was not unusual. Social Security beneficiaries were told they would finally have a coast of living allowance (COLA) of two percent. It was certainly better than the zero percent from prior years but wait a minute. After the bureaucrats jacked-up Medicare premiums (which are deducted from Social Security payments), most seniors were left with a zero increase or slightly less. Even a four-year-old could do the math to make the numbers wash and screw seniors. Yet at the same time more money was appropriated by our government for programs for the underprivileged, illegal immigrants, and virtually every other special interest group living in this nation. Why? Because being a senior citizen does not include you in a special interest group. You are just plain old and no one really gives a damn. The news media certainly doesn’t care. There has been a great deal of flap over the Dreamers as of late but not one single word from the main stream media about the plight of older Americans: Not one word about the millions of senior citizens who built a country where you could even consider having a conversation about “dreamers.”

A demographic consisting of 15 percent of the entire population deserves better. Contrary to popular myth, very few seniors are wealthy. Most live on their meager Social Security checks. Some in rare cases have even been reported to have eaten dog food just to stay alive. Have you seen any media outlet wailing about seniors eating dog food? Of course not. We should at least throw seniors a bone (pun intended) and maybe even help that group as much as we help other groups. Wouldn’t that simply be fair?

The greatest misconception about seniors is that they are living off the government dole in the same way as welfare recipients. Wrong! Older Americans are receiving a pittance of what they put into the Social Security system and it’s being refunded without interest in minuscule amounts as the government sees fit. In fact, most Americans will not live long enough to recover anything near a large percentage of their Social Security contributions. This is especially true of self-employed individuals who pay both the employer and employee portions of Social Security contributions. Government lackeys moan that the Social Security system is bankrupt. It is bankrupt but not at the hands of older Americans but rather by greedy politicians who have “borrowed” from the system to pay for everything from welfare to wars.

The recent fanfare over lower tax rates, increased minimum wages and bonuses paid by large corporations did not enter into the equation for most seniors, save the wealthy. It was a good thing for America but did any Social Security recipient receive a bonus? Of course not! A thousand dollar “bonus” would have gone a long way with any senior but it sure wouldn’t have made sensational evening news. There’s not much sizzle in a story about old people.

Seniors in this country tend to be a little docile, which is a shame. Imagine if all seniors went on strike for a month and didn’t buy anything: No cars, no houses, no televisions, no stocks, no nothing. The national economy would actually collapse in a month. Other groups would happily take to the streets in riot and boycott businesses at the drop of a hat if they didn’t get their way. Seniors just sit at home and patiently hope that things will change for the better. (They don’t!)

It is way past time that Americans recognize their senior citizenry for who they are: The backbone of a great society that was built by their very sweat and blood. They deserve a better treatment from their government and fellow citizens alike and not just concerning monetary issues. But why not a COLA adjustment commensurate with increases given other groups? Again, it is actually their own money after all. It is not a gift from the government coffers. At the same time they don’t deserve to be mocked and taken advantage of just because they have patiently grown older. We all grow older eventually. The next time you see a senior member of your community, you might want to actually thank him or her the same way you would thank someone in our military. They deserve the thanks for making this country great and would be happy to hear so once in a while. Even a smile would be a nice non-cash bonus for most of them.

At the end of the day, just like you, me, us and them…. senior lives matter too!

These are some of my thoughts on the subject of seniors and why senior lives matter. Let’s hear yours.

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The Fear Of Dying In Walmart

Everyone has a phobia or two. Mine is dying in a Walmart. I always imagine cashing out in the presence of all those Walmartians – yikes, it makes my hair stand up!

Over the years, when I must, I enter a Walmart very cautiously for this reason. First I check at the entrance to be sure the greeter isn’t wearing a hooded robe and carrying a sickle. If it’s just another challenged person, I feel I’m good to go. But once I am fully immersed in the Walmart experience, my anxieties begin to come in waves.

First there is the questionable clientele. Actually, that’s an awfully nice way of describing the average Walmart shopper. Usually, the clientele is comprised of overly aggressive, self-absorbed psychopaths who range from demented seniors to the criminally stupid teenagers. What they all seem to have in common is scale smashing obesity and the desire to shop in their pajamas. It is a ghastly sight and the thought of croaking among this rabble makes me shiver. More than likely I would apt to be trampled by this herd before the coroner even arrived on scene.

I once was purposefully rammed at full speed by an angry old lady who was driving her handicapped cart at me as if to win a destruction derby. As I limped to the side of the aisle, I asked dumbfounded as to why she hit me on purpose. Her answer? “I’m a senior and I can do what I want!” I could only reply honestly, “Fine, I’m a senior too but I don’t come here set on doing bodily harm!” Then I thought I saw that guy with the sickle peaking around the next aisle so I quickly added, “Have a nice day.”

Then there are those wonderful people who Walmart employs. I once encountered a young employee in the hardware section of our local North Carolina store only to find that he spoke no English at all. Thankfully I speak Spanish but what would have happened if I fell stricken to the floor in front of this person. Would he have screamed, “Ayuda, creo que está muerto!” or would he have just walked over my corpse? Scary stuff to ponder while roaming the aisles looking for a box of screws.

I’m all for hiring the handicapped but I have found in Walmart too many employees who seem awkwardly mentally handicapped to the point where they are of little help to the shopper. Again, I get this horrible cerebral image of me on the floor as a guy in a blue vest rolls up in his wheel chair accompanied by the manager with his toupee on backwards and a strangely familiar looking fellow who blurts, “Me think he no alive no more!” All of this is too heavy to comprehend so I grab my stuff, pay and head for the sanctuary of the in store McDonalds. Ah, safe from the grim reaper at last!

Well, actually not. Now I learn why Walmart shoppers are so fat. There are free refills of all those 44 ounce sugar drinks. As I order my mini-burger with a senior drink, I watch a slow parade of fatties file by in their pajamas, a 44-ouncer in each hand. I gasp in the knowledge that these folks do indeed walk among us. Once I am seated, I continue to watch, trying not to stare at the circus of irregulars who dine here. There’s the fat mother with three fat kids who is upset that McDonalds doesn’t accept unlimited food stamps. There’s the lonely senior pretending he’s presiding over the last supper by himself as he nervously looks side to side for his imaginary disciples. There’s the soccer mom with a cart full of useless crap to be later dispensed upon a lethargic family. She’s counting the items bagged in her cart as she stuffs a double something into her jaws while fiddling with her smart phone. I look, I gasp and reach for my inhaler as I imagine dusting out in the midst of this crew and an overwhelming stench of stale french fries. Jesus, it’s plumb scary!

I bolt down my mini burger, declining the free refill on my senior Coke, and head for the car. After clearing the obstacle course of unschooled drivers and loose carts, I am on the road again and heading for home. I check all of my appendages to make sure I am still intact. It’s another day with the fear of dying in Walmart but I’ve made it back to the safety of my house. Now, all I have to worry about is the evening news and the prospect of North Korea nuking us. Ah, the simple pleasures of life!

Actually, a few people have died in Walmart throughout the years. Most recently Rhubarb Jones, a popular Atlanta based radio host, died in a Walmart in Tallapoosa, Georgia on April 2, 2017.

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The Rhyme Doctor

I probably started liking poetry and lyrics as an infant and I cherished the rhymes that went with them as I grew into my youth and was later propelled into my adulthood. Now that I am an old man, I look back through the decades and feel a great pride for being known as the Rhyme Doctor for so many years. The Rhyme Doctor? Yes.

The nickname has its early roots in my high school years when I was an aspiring poet. I had studied poetry intensely and learned all of the styles very well. While I excelled at free verse, I was always drawn back to the good stuff that rhymes. Though my friends were rowdy surfers and not the stuff of Rhodes Scholars, I persisted with my poetry. My first poems were published when I was 14 and I received my first check as a writer at the same age. In an attempt to blend my poetry with awkward teenage socialization, I would also make up off-colored lyrics to popular songs at the time. Finding it entertaining, my friends gradually bestowed the moniker Rhyme Doctor on me. It was nothing serious, just an inside joke that seemed to have been shared with half the student body. (Kids are cruel!)

I left high school determined to write the great American novel or at least something damned close to it. The trouble was that I thought in the condensed language of a poet which made it difficult to write anything near the length of a novel. I rectified that problem years later when I began writing both novels and screen plays. But in the interim, I was writing poetry and loving it. To be able to write an entire book in a few stanzas became a specialty. In my university classes I was once again called the Rhyme Doctor because of my scholarly pursuit of poetry and the the fact that I was a nationally published poet.

The poetry finally gave way to lyric writing and song writing as I entered the music business in 1973. I was convinced that I could make the tough transition and I did. In the mid-1970’s, I was making a good living writing songs and also fixing other’s whose lyrics needed help. In many instances, I found well-written songs that employed faulty or lazy rhyming. Being the doctor of rhyme, I healed many a song. It was during this stint as a fixer that my colleagues in the music business also coincidentally started referring to me once again as the Rhyme Doctor. Although I considered myself more as a rhyme mechanic, after a couple of years I accepted the name wholeheartedly with a great deal of pride. During this time, many people knew me solely by my nickname. For the last 40 plus years I have continued to ply my craft on a daily basis as well as assist those who need the doctor. This doctor is always in.

Why is rhyming so important in poetry and song writing? The answer is both simple and complex. The simple answer is that we like hearing sounds that are similar.It is as natural as the human heartbeat. However, there is a more complex answer. When the human brain hears rhymes, it releases endorphins that feed the pleasure centers of our brains. Simply put, rhyming makes us feel good. Think back to your childhood. Why did you say: “Liar, liar – pants on fire?” Right! It felt good and it was certainly better than, “Liar, liar – pants too short!”

Well over a half a century after publishing my first poetry, I decided to publish an anthology of some of my very early poetry along side that which was written in the last few years. It is presented as bookends to my literary life in a volume entitled Prescriptions from the Rhyme Doctor. Please give it a read. At $2.99 it is very indispensable and inexpensive prescription indeed!

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The Tirolean American Experience

I am not a comedian but I was persuaded recently to give comedy a crack. But of course, being a writer, I wanted to get this puppy down on paper before hitting the stage. So sit back, pretend you are in a noisy, dimly lit “club” with a dingy, tiny corner serving as a stage.

The Tirolean American Experience
(15 Minute Stand-Up Routine)

Good evening folks – my name is Allen Rizzi. I know what you’re thinking – “Madonna, another WOP comic!” Actually, I’m Tirolean…. (pause) What the hell is a Tirolean? We are Northern Italians that are a little Germanic and walk with a limp (Heil Hitler imitation with dragging foot – back and forth on stage twice.)

Seriously (pause) “Abbiamo modi di fare con vostri tipi!” That’s right, you didn’t understand, did you? – “Vee have vays of dealing mit your kind!” (pause)

We are Tirolean and my father was concert master for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra – that’s the one that was in Vienna not in Italy. (pause) When I was a kid of about eight, he thrust his Stradivarius in my tiny hands and hired an old German violin teacher to teach me how to play. Every lesson began with his question: “Und ven you grow up, vat vill you do? (looking sheepish with trembling voice) “I vill play for the poor people und orphans!” (pause) Now I’m poor as hell and no one has ever come around to play me a tune. (pause)

I failed violin, my sister failed violin and my poor brother never even got the chance to fail. My father once said, “How could I have bred three musical cretins?” (pause) Nothing like a little morale booster at the age of eight! But that’s okay – I did learn to cook meatballs!

When I was a kid growing up, I didn’t know anything about Italians or Tiroleans for that matter. I didn’t learn a thing until I was in college. I used to meet this sweet girl before classes in the cafeteria. We sort of started going out and our main entertainment was, of all things, target shooting… You know, with real guns! She was good but I was always better. One day, I met her as usual in the cafeteria but she was with two goons right out of the Godfather, replete with broken noses and double breasted suits. I didn’t know what was going on and I nearly wet myself. Finally one stepped forward and said: “We’se hear you’se pretty good with a piece!” (pause with quizzical look) Finally I replied, “A piece of what?” I thought maybe they were talking about a piece of ass and I certainly didn’t want to get popped right then and there. (pause)

Italians or Tiroleans or whatever are strange. Actually, I was baptized Piccolo Alessandro Eugenio di Eugenio Valentino Von Rizzi Regin. Good Lord, what a mouthful. My mother (not Italian) had the good sense to trim my name down to a mere three names. It didn’t work out well for the saints and Italian hocus pocus but at least it assured that I wouldn’t get beat up in school. (pause) (in character) “Oh, Piccolo, want to come over and see if you fit in this locker?” (pause)

When you have a name that ends in a vowel, you appreciate films like The Godfather. You watch them too much and you start talking like them: “Eh, Bonasera, Bonasera, what have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully?” (pause) My father used to also quote the film, a later scene where Don Corleone visits Buonasera’s funeral parlor. The Don looks at his bullet ridden son and says, (in character) “I don’t want his mother to see him this way!” (pause) My father always broke up laughing before he could get the whole line out.

So, finally as an adult, well actually a semi-geezer, I moved to Northern Italy with my wife to live in the village where my father was born. After telling everyone proudly that I was Tirolean and getting my ass kicked for it, I now just accept being a “paesan.” It turns out no one likes Tiroleans anyway! (pause)

Our little village has only 140 residents but 300 cats. (pause) We live on the border of the Italian and German speaking provinces so when cats come to our door when we’re cooking “pesce” (that would be fish), we often hear a mixture of purring Buon Giorno mixed with the guttural German growl and the threat of another Crystalnacht. (pause) It’s like a feline version of The Godfather III mixed with Schindler’s List. (pause)

But seriously, we love our Italian / German / Craut / Guinea neighbors but they just don’t understand Americans. When Thanksgiving rolls around, we go to great lengths to buy a whole turkey. Our friends ask, “Why don’t you just buy turkey slices? You’re going to slice it anyway! I explain the whole Pilgrim story in Italian. (Oh yeah, that’s a lot of fun!) A half hour later I have to repeat the whole mess. After three tries, I just say: “Enough! I want the damn bird whole!” (pause) (Quizzical look) It actually sounds better in Italian: “Basta! Voglio l’intero maledetto Uccello!” (pause)

We moved back to the states a few years ago and bought a house here in Etowah. (pause) We thought it sounded Italian! (pause) My son said he wanted to learn Italian so I bought him a language CD. After a year, I asked: “How’s the Italian coming? What have you learned?” (pause) “Si, no and stronzo.” Obviously the kid is no Rhodes Scholar! (pause)

When we moved back from Italy, our neighbors used to say, “Hey, let’s go over to the Italian’s house and have some wine!” I would always answer, “Do you know any? (surprised look) I’m Tirolean!” (pause) When they come to dinner at our house, they expect Chicken Parm, Steak del Monaco and other stuff I’ve never heard of. When I say: “We’re having Tirolean capusi – that’s cabbage salad,” they think I’m saying: “We’re having Mongolian pussy!” (pause) Not a great way to start an evening! (pause)

Have a good evening folks. You’ve been a so-so crowd. (pause) (in character) “You didn’t even think to call me Godfather!”

Good night – Gutter Nacht – Buona Sera – and God bless!

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Once Upon A Time In California

I remember the distant day like this morning’s coffee. It was a cold May morning in the shadows of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains and I had sloshed through a flooded cow field behind my father in the pursuit of German Brown Trout. The year was 1956 and I was six months shy of eight years old.

The Owens River floods its banks during the snow melt off in May rendering the whole of the river’s basin a mosquito infested swamp with occasional dry access to the river’s bank. My father had driven us there from our home in San Fernando, California the night before so that we could get on the river early. The 300 mile trip was planned to get us on the river just before daybreak. Although I was already an accomplished fisherman, I was still learning and this morning was just one of many lessons in the life-long pursuit of trout.

While I had mastered the cast, I still needed my father’s guidance in reading the water. I was still prone to tossing my fly mid-current and was in need of some stream-side tutoring. The morning wore on as my father caught a series of nice German Brown trout and tried to encourage me to do the same. My casts were met with underwelmed trout and the silence of the late morning grew deafening. In the midst of my frustration, my father approached and pointed to a side pool on the opposite bank. “Put it there, just a little upstream.”

I made the easy 20 foot cast and waited with anticipation as my fly drifted into the sweet spot. Bam! A large Brown grabbed my nymph and headed upstream like a train. I set the hook, palmed the reel and held on for dear life. This was no ordinary take! The reel screamed as line flew off the spool.

My father stepped back away from the bank and didn’t say a word. He had trained me for this moment and I was on my own. I kept the pressure on the reel with my right hand while occasionally taking up a bit of line.  The fish dove under a bank and the whole braking and take-up routine was repeated over and over again.

After what seemed to an eight-year-old as a true eternity, the fish was landed. As I turned around to find my father, he snapped this photo. It sits framed in my den after sixty years as a constant reminder of what fishing has always been to me: Family, fidelity and the constant hope for a better tomorrow.

Sharing this story with all of you is my way of saying, “Merry Christmas.” Keep your family close, be true to yourself and always hope for a better tomorrow.

For a full picture of what I mean, read my book: The Blackest of Canyons.

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When Cats Are Too Smart

According to researchers at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, the physical structure of the brains of humans and cats is very similar. Generally, most agree that cats are intelligent and capable of learning new behavior. But what about when cats are too smart?

Take the cat in the above photo. Jessie was her name. She learned about every trick in the book and then some. But never trust a cat that can change the TV channel to a bird show! Jessie also knew how to turn a fresh-baked pie upside down on the floor and then eat the whole damn thing with her cohort, our dog Smokey. They were like the Poncho and Lefty of our kitchen for years.

As a general observer of the human condition, I firmly believe that no mere mammal should be smarter than human beings. That said, I have had my beliefs turned upside down like those blackberry pies so very many times. After we moved to Italy, we soon found a quintet of feral cats at our door every morning. Feeling sorry for them, we fed them (first mistake) and gradually agreed they could eat in our kitchen. After all, what could go wrong with inviting forest cats into your house in a foreign country? Then came a hot summer morning when my wife left the front door open for some air. She turned her back on the door for a mere minute and found the band of cats jumping up and down on our guest bed like the Jackson Five. How did they get in so quickly and with such a plan? They finally moon-walked their way out after I started yelling.

What do you do when cats are too smart? You try to get smarter than them in a hurry, usually only to find that Einstein’s time-space relativity thing just doesn’t apply to cats. Cats may have brains that are similar in structure to ours but those brains certainly are smaller, or are they? Being played and outwitted by pea brained mammals is not what I set out to do in life but it seems to be a recurring theme throughout my years. I’m sure there is a feline chorus that would agree.

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