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The Gym

The Gym – It has been a foreign place to me all of my life but one that I have recently visited frequently. I think we’re becoming friends.

For seven decades I have seen no reason to go to a gym as I have always been in shape. Years ago I was a champion surfer and I have been an avid outdoors man and fly fisherman all my life. I come from rugged pioneer stock and generally considered the gym a place for muscle men or bored yuppies looking to throw down their fat on a yoga mat.

So why did I visit the gym? The first answer was that I just simply had the curiosity to see one; I had actually never set foot in one my entire life. The second reason was a bit more complicated. Three years ago, I had a mild stroke that was an eye opener. Well, actually an eye closer as it was an amaurosis fugax, an event in which a small piece of plaque breaks off your carotid artery and blocks your optic artery, resulting in temporary blindness. It’s not a biggie on the old stroke score board but it needs looking into immediately. I did look into it and found that I had two small aneurysms in my right inner carotid artery that required replacing the artery all together. If you are interested in a humorous blow by blow, you can find it here: https://rizziallen.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/endarterectomy-this-ones-straight-off-personal/

Although the episode was not a direct result of being out of shape, it made me think. I was getting undeniably older and I certainly couldn’t handle a surf board like decades earlier, probably not at all. Was age making me more vulnerable to disease? Was I turning into a wimp? What to do? Well, of course, I waited.

I did notice from time to time that my waistline wasn’t as small as it used to be. When I was 28 years old I had a 28 inch waist. Now, well let’s just say it’s a tad larger. I said to myself, “Well, that’s just the aging process.” Again, I waited.

Finally, I noticed that I was perspiring much more than before as I did strenuous work in the garden or climbed long flights of stairs. I brought all of this to the attention of my doctor and bam! He sent me off for a stress test and an appointment with a cardiologist. I protested as I talked to him on the phone while shoveling 27 inches of snow. Was he sure I needed all of that? His answer was brief: “Let’s check it out: I don’t want you falling over dead on your driveway!”

I did take the stress test and I did see the cardiologist. After a lot of conversation, it boiled down to a sort of nothing burger. My blood pressure was fine, except when I was yelling at the nightly news broadcaster and there were no apparent major heart problems. However, the cardiologist noted the probable presence of atherosclerosis and recommended more exercise. I protested, noting that I could wade a river for six hours straight while casting a fly and that I walked two miles a day. He frowned. I smiled. I left his office at sort of a stand still and said that I would give it all some thought.

I did think about it seriously and finally visited our local gym with my wife. The owner is a long-time acquaintance so he gave us a no sales pressure tour of the entire facility. Afterwards, I spoke to my wife and we agreed that we were both up for it. We were going to give the gym thing a shot.

We now go to the gym three or four days a week for over two hours each time. I am walking six miles, rowing my guts out, crunching, and bicycling. How are we both feeling? Tired for a good part of the week but secure in the knowledge that we’re doing the right thing. Are we going to get buff? Seriously, at our age I doubt it. My six packs will probably remain empty diet soda cans. But what we are getting is slimmer with more energy and endurance. While neither one of us was technically overweight, we have both lost over 16 pounds apiece. For sure, my cardio-vascular condition is improving. We’ve only been on this regimen for a couple of months so we’ll see what develops. If all goes well, we’ll both be healthier. If it turns out that I’m getting way, way too much exercise, well, you may not be reading this blog much longer.😉

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Mellow Man

This post and song from May 8, 2015 came into my mind today. I thought it was worth sharing as I’m feeling mellow today. 😎

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Here’s another of my songs from the late 1970s, along with the back scene as it appeared in my book, Three A.m – The Complete 1970s Song Lyrics.

This song has always been a favorite of mine as it was written at a time when I finally found that my struggles as a song writer had finally produced some success.

Mellow Man
© 1978 Allen E. Rizzi

V1 Well, you go away,
And you get it right….
You wake up one day,
You are a mellow man….

V2 Your empty glass
Has been filled again….
And you let it pour,
You are a mellow man….

Ch Mellow man, are you really listening?
Mellow man, do you really care?
Mellow man, are you finally loving?
Mellow man, with your feet up in the air.

Instr.

V3 Your heart is light,
And your head’s away….
You take to bed at night

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What I Want As A Writer

It’s a logical question and it is often asked of me: What do you want as a writer? As a broad question, it probably deserves a broad answer. However, I am succinct in my approach to most things so here goes.

As a writer, I am not seeking fame. I had my share of that in surfing five decades ago and as a songwriter and playwright four decades ago. That was enough. No, I am not a writer for any sort of fame. Besides, the whole fame thing is way over-rated.

What about fortune? Again, a blunt no will suffice. I have priced my entire Kindle catalog at a mere $2.99 which means I make about two bucks a book. A fortune is not made by collecting chump change from Amazon. I could make more money getting a job at the local Dollar Store. I am financially secure enough so that option is a non-starter. So I’m not a writer for the money.

Then what exactly do I want as a writer? The answer is simple: I want to connect with as many people in this world as I possibly can and through my writing bring a little joy, perspective, information and delight into their lives. It really is just that simple.

Here is my current offering through Amazon.com. It consists of eight books written to appeal to diverse audiences: https://www.amazon.com/Allen-E.-Rizzi/e/B00B3L8PYS/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

If one these books will bring just a little joy, perspective, information or delight into your life, my job has been done well and that is what I want as a writer. Please read one of these books soon and make my day.

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Shades Of Richie

Since this is one of my most popular posts, I thought a reblog was in order. 🎵

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This post has been widely read all over the world. Please leave your comments.

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…

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Near Fatal Accident

Some things in life are just totally unexpected.

Monday, my wife and I were driving back from the gym heading toward our house. We had a good workout and we were looking forward to a late lunch and the warmth of our home.

About three blocks from the house as we passed the golf course, I heard a terrible loud boom. In one gigantic motion a pine limb came through our windshield butt end first. The blow was so severe that I had glass shot into my face like a cannon. I instinctively stopped the car to see if my wife was alright. Seeing the limb protruding 10 inches into our car in front of my wife’s head, I feared the worst. Fortunately she had her visor down at the time and was spared any injuries from the wood and glass.

Not wanting to block the narrow two lane road, I slowly drove the car home and into our garage. When I got out, filled with glass fragments, I was totally amazed. The tree limb trailed over the back of our car some twelve feet. Glass had shot past my head into the rear of the car, where it filled every crevice. My vehicle resembled a stunt car from a crime scene shootout sequence.

My first action was to ensure my wife and I were okay. She was fine but I had considerable glass in my right eye. I carefully flushed it with warm water several times and we both took a shower to remove most of the small glass shards. I then called the insurance company and arranged for the windshield to be replaced and assess other damage. Finally I called a neighbor for the mad dash to the eye doctor.

On our way to the ophthalmologist, we stopped and spoke to the manager of the golf course to let him know that a part of one of his trees had come down on us. They assured me they would take care of the expenses so we proceeded to the doctor’s office. Although it was a few minutes before five, the door was locked. I pounded on the door a few times and a nurse answered. They were kind enough to bring me in and start an eye exam as they recalled the ophthalmologist from home. Fortunately, he is also a personal friend. After a thorough exam and treatment, they felt there was no more glass in my eye and sent me on my way.

Shock is something I’ve rarely if ever experienced in my life. However, when we got home, I definitely went into shock. Indeed, we had come very close to getting killed. With the knowledge that we were relatively okay and with the help of a bottle of wine, we went off to bed. It was a restless sleep but it was very good to see the morning light.

I felt terrible the next day. The physical and mental trauma had taken their toll. I was up early and anxiously awaited the mobile windshield replacement professionals.  They carefully removed the tree limb, replaced the glass and cleaned-up most of the broken glass before it started to snow. I was pleased to see my car relatively whole again. Yes, there was a slight dent and a scratch on the dash. The fancy rear view mirror with its compass had also been knocked out of commission. And yes, there was still a mini mountain  of glass to vacuum up.

As I dug into the insurance aspects for real and talked to the golf course about covering my expenses, I couldn’t help constantly coming back to once big important fact: Rachel and I were still alive. All the insurance and money in the world can’t replace that simple fact.

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Caesar Salad Dressing

This post is courtesy of my wife Rachel:

Most people have eaten a Caesar Salad at least once in their life. Many assume incorrectly that it was named after the Roman Julius Caesar. Actually, the salad’s creation is generally attributed to restaurateur Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant who operated restaurants in Mexico and the United States. Cardini was living in San Diego but he was also working across the border in Tijuana, Mexico where he avoided some of the restrictions of Prohibition. His daughter Rosa has recounted that her father invented the salad when a Fourth of July 1924 customer rush depleted the kitchen’s supplies. Cardini made do with what he had, adding the dramatic flair of the table-side tossing “by the chef.” In the following years a number of Cardini’s staff also said that they invented the dish.

Generally, the Caesar salad is a green salad of romaine lettuce and croutons dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, egg, Worcestershire sauce, anchovies, garlic, Dijon mustard, Parmesan cheese, and black pepper. Many people aren’t overly fond of anchovies, so the dressing has evolved a bit into several incarnations. Here is the home-made simple to make variety that we use:

Caesar Salad Dressing Recipe

. 2 tbsp mayonnaise

. 2 tsp Dijon mustard

. 2 lg garlic cloves, pressed

. 1/2 cup lemon juice (about 3 lemons)

. 1 tsp salt

. 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

. 1 cup mild olive oil

. 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

. Combine with a whisk, adding oil in a steady stream while blending

We store our dressing in a Mason jar in the refrigerator and stir it vigorously before each serving. It’s delicious on all kinds of salads. It also tastes great on fresh steamed broccoli and other semi-raw vegetables.

Enjoy and let me know how you like this recipe!

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Who Would You Like To Meet?

The question is just about ancient: “If you could go back in time, who would you like to meet?”

I have studied this question for over six decades and my answers have changed little over those many years. They are reflections of my own personal perceptions of life, history, importance and curiosity. Here are the top five people I would like to meet from the past.

The first person I would like to meet is Jesus of Nazareth. Why? It’s not because I’m a particularly religious person; it is because I am a particularly curious individual. I would like to know Jesus the man as opposed to Jesus the divine. Did Jesus have brothers or sisters as many have suggested? Was he indeed married to Mary Magdalene? Did he have children? (If he died in his 33rd year, this seems likely.) Who was this man Jesus? Surely, he was a small, swarthy, brown-skinned person and not the blue-eyed blond who is often portrayed in books and film. What were his private thoughts about those around him? Did he ever really trust Judas? What did his voice sound like? There are so many things I would like to know about Jesus that I’m sure I would need at least a month with him. I would probably get along quite well with Jesus as we are both straight talkers. I admire that in any person.

The second person on my list is Alexander III (The Great) of Macedonia. Again he was shrimp sized, probably just over five feet tall, but his accomplishments (good and bad) were gigantic in the ancient world. I would like to meet him and take a full measure of a man who changed the entire known world at such a young age. Was he a mama’s boy as some have suggested? Did he really have a hand in assassinating his father? I doubt it but who knows? How did he maintain the respect of his boyhood friends and generals after so much misadventure in foreign lands? Did he indeed look like those stylized portrait on his coins and statues or was he more common looking? Was Roxana alluring and crude or was she more straightforward and  intellectual than history has painted her? I’d love to answer those and so many other questions. I’d even like to take a short ride on Bucephalus and see if this steed was all he was supposed to be.

The third person on my imaginary list is the elusive King Arthur. Recent evidence points to him not being just a myth; he was a real person, probably a local chieftain of Roman or Pict descent with regional power. Was he really a king or just a regional leader? I would like to see for myself how round his table was and if he indeed looked a bit like Richard Harris or Clive Owen. I doubt it. I would also like to meet his main squeeze Guinevere and see how they both stack-up to the myths found in literature. Was he faithful to Guinevere? Who were his parents? Was he short or tall? Again. he seems as though he was a straight shooter. I have always imagined that I would get on with Arthur quite well. I would definitely like to share a cup of mead with him and maybe even share a couple of slices of bread and meat, courtesy of Excalibur.

Fourth on my list would definitely be Ptolemy I (Soter) of Egypt. I am certainly aware that the man was a Greek Macedonian and not an Egyptian but I have always wondered about this man who ruled ancient Egypt so well and lived so long. Did he really have the funny hooked jaw that is so often portrayed on his coinage of the day? What other languages did he speak besides Greek and Egyptian? Could he tell me about all of those wild battles along side of Alexander? Did he support Alexander out of loyalty or fear? How did he see himself as the ruler of Egypt? What hobbies did he have? I would also like to meet his entire family including Ptolemy II, the founder of the Library at Alexandria. They seem like a practical, intellectual bunch. I have always imagined that this family was actually quite humble, despite being learned, powerful and competent rulers. Only a time machine would tell for sure.

To round-out the top five, I would choose to meet my own distant relative John Allen of Plymouth, Massachusetts. John hails from my mother’s side of the family. He came to America on the ship Mary and John in 1634 and was one of the first “community heads” of the Plymouth Colony. As such, he recorded many of the day-to-day happenings in the early new world.  I would like to know him as a man and as an important ancestor. Did I inherit some of his qualities? Did he prefer the traditional spelling Allyn or was he okay with Allen? What did his voice sound like? Did he really wear those funny looking buckled shoes? Was he cool like me? I’d love to tell him how the whole Allen clan wound-up moving ever westward; I am guessing that he would understand.

The time machine waits in some distant future. Of this I am sure. However, I am surely not to survive to the moment of this invention. Therefore, my time travelling desires are rendered mute, except in my mind.

I pose this question to all of you, my faithful readers: Who would you like to meet? Name me your top five!

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Beauty School Drop-Out

As a professional songwriter and teacher, I have often employed American popular music to help teach English to non-native speakers. Learning the book stuff is fine and very much needed, but to truly function in American English, one needs an understanding of American idiom or street talk. If you have ever lived in or visited another country, you know that the book talk is not what you find on the streets. Decades ago, as a high school teacher, I used contemporary music to help Hispanic students grasp the English language as it is spoken in everyday situations to augment the textbook English grammar and literature that I regularly taught in class.

I have used many songs in this endeavor throughout the years, most recently in Italy where I have taught Italian English teachers how to teach literature, poetry and American culture. I have employed a vast array of songs from San Francisco Nights (by The Animals) to some of my own compositions such as Cotton Candy Dreams. One of my favorite songs to use to teach American idiom is Beauty School Drop-Out, written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey and performed by Frankie Avalon for the 1978 movie Grease. Why? Take a look!

Here are the lyrics:

Beauty School Drop-Out

Your story’s sad to tell, a teenage ne’er-do-well
Most mixed up non-delinquent on the block
Your future’s so unclear now,
What’s left of your career now
Can’t even get a trade-in on your smile (“smock” in some versions)
Beauty school drop-out, no graduation day for you
Beauty school drop-out, missed your midterms and flunked shampoo
Well at least you could have taken time to wash and clean your clothes up
After spending all that dough to have the doctor fix your nose up
Baby get moving (better get moving),
Why keep your feeble hopes alive
What are you proving (what are you proving)?
You’ve got the dream, but not the drive
If you go for your diploma, you could join a steno pool
Turn in your teasin’ comb and go back to high school
Beauty school drop-out, hangin’ around the corner store
Beauty school drop-out, it’s about time you knew the score
Well they couldn’t teach you anything, you think you’re such a looker
But no customer would go to you, unless she was a hooker
Baby don’t sweat it (don’t sweat it), you’re not cut out to hold the job
Better forget it (forget it), who wants their hair done by a slob
Now your bangs are curled, your lashes twirled, and still the world is cruel
Wipe off that angel face and go back to high school
Baby don’t blow it, don’t put my good advice to shame
Baby you know it, even Dear Abby’s say the same
Now I’ve called the shot, get off the pot, I really gotta fly
Gotta be goin’ to that malt shop in the sky
Beauty school drop-out, go back to high school
Beauty school drop-out, go back to high school
Beauty school drop-out, go back to high school

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Here’s some words and phrases that non-American English speakers can get familiar with through this song:

. Beauty School  . Drop -out . Ne’re-do-well . Non-delinquent . Block  . Smock .Trade-in . Midterms . Flunked

. Dough . Fix your nose up . Get moving . Drive . Diploma . Steno pool . Teasin’ comb . Hangin’ around

. Corner store . Knew the score . Looker . Hooker . Don’t sweat it . Not cut out . Slob . Bangs . Wipe off

. Lashes . Angel face . Blow it . Dear Abby . Called the shot . Get off the pot . Gotta fly . Malt shop

Many of these words and phrases have literal translations which certainly can be found. However, the American street meaning of Don’t Sweat It is much different that what you would find using Google Translate. What you would find there, non sudare, doesn’t mean the same thing at all.  This same principle applies to most others cited above.

If you are reading this and you are a native English speaker, you may say, “No big deal!” But remember even that is a piece of American idiom that is apt not to be fully understood by non-native American English speakers.

Here’s a video out-take from the movie, also with the lyrics:

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A River Runs Through It

In anticipation of this year’s fishing season, I am reblogging this post from March 7, 2017. Tight Lines!

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My fellow fly fishermen may enjoy this. Some of the rest of you might enjoy it as well.

Many people have seen the 1992 film A River Runs Through It starring Brad Pitt. It was an excellent movie based closely on the story of the same title by Norman Maclean. Robert Redford did a great job adapting the book to the big screen. In the book, there are many pages that deal with the selection of appropriate flies, reading water and other subjects that the general public has little to no interest in reading about. Redford reduced these passages and re-wrote the timeline of the book to make it appealing to the public at large. In the book Norman is already married. In the film, he is courting his future wife. True, if you are a fly fisherman, you enjoyed both treatments.

While there are many great moments in the…

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Important People

We all have people in our lives who we consider truly important. They stand out in our lives life rock pillars in a sea of jello. They usually have helped shape our lives for the better in some dramatic fashion. We think of them occasionally with a smile while we are all alone but we often decline to name them publicly and say thank you.

To start the new year off, I thought it was important to name the important people in my life. Here they are in the order I’ve known them:

1. My mother, Barbara Lee Allen. She is ever my intellectual inspiration and half of my soul forever. My mother was the most well read, literate person that I’ve ever known. Thanks mom for just being you.  I think of you every day. RIP

2. My father, Eugenio Valentino Rizzi. He was the best example of a father that ever was despite the fact that he never met his own father. He gave me my courage, my competence and half my soul. He was Concert Master for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at age 20 and could cast a fly line better than anyone I’ve ever met. Thanks dad. You’re with me always. RIP

3. Mr. Samuels, my 6th grade teacher who taught me how to speed read at over 3,600 words per minute. That sounds ridiculous but it’s true. Reading super fast with total comprehension helped me get through high school and college easily. He was rigorous, tough and demanded a lot of me. I have learned to ask the same of others around me. RIP

4. Albert Mogg, my high school journalism teacher. Thanks for dealing with “youth misunderstood” in such a positive manner and showing me what and who I could be. He taught me that writing was a true art that needed to be applied in delicate but firm brush strokes. RIP

5. Karen Eckert, high school girl friend and good friend for over half a century. Thanks for keeping me guessing all these years. I remember your father busting the window in my ’56 Chevy when we were inside just talking. You are a sweetheart always.

6. Faye Louise Grindstaff, my college graduate adviser. You believed in me and helped me plant my standard in the teaching community. I always enjoyed your professional and personal friendship. I am sorry I left teaching but I had an infant son to raise by myself. Sometimes life throws you curve balls that you still have to catch.

7. Ray Allopena, friend, guitar player and good buddy when times were tough. Thanks for showing me I had the talent and the pair to carry on. I always promised myself that we would play one last song together after all those sets from long ago. I guess it will have to wait a bit. See you soon. RIP

8. Mary Ann LaFleur, my post-first-marriage girl friend and life-long friend and supporter. You gave me the maturity, the space and the support I needed when I was coming out of some dark times. I love you always. Congratulations again on your recent marriage!

9. Geri Wiesneth, friend, lover and co-writer. Wow, I wouldn’t be the songwriter I am today without your constant support and fierce belief in my talent. I miss you so much. RIP

10. Ed LaFata, business partner and friend. We were quite the pair running Italia Productions in the 1970’s. You are a true professional musician with endless talent and energy. I am so glad you are still going strong. You are an inspiration to all of us!

11. All of you in the music and writing industries who have supported me through the years with the “attaboys” that we all need so much. Your collective support has been what has gotten me up in the morning for decades  and makes me want to do it all over again. Professional songwriters need the support of their peers as the music listening public rarely even knows their names. Thanks especially to Carol, Snuff, Sheila, Rita, Anne, Al, Crystal and Johnny (Mr. Apropos).

12. Last but always first,  Rachel, my beloved wife of 37 years. Above all, you are who I cherish every day with a love and gratitude that escapes words. You have put-up with my dreams, ego and type A personality for so many years and have loved me without fail. In return I have loved you for decades with a passion of a true believer. We are perfect together! Happy anniversary my love!

Those are my top twelve. They are many others too numerous to list here. To all of you important people: I love you all and will remember you with distinct affection for all of my days.

Who are the important people in your life?

Photo: The happy Tiroleans on our 25th wedding anniversary (tanti anni fa).

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