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A Sort Of Prayer

Now I’m really going back in time! Yes I was a poet, even 55 years ago!  I just pulled this one out of my poetry anthology and decided to share it with you this week.

A Sort Of Prayer

©1967 Allen E. Rizzi

When mahogany hair no longer plays upon my chest;

When her eyes no longer flicker when we have come to rest;

When our flame is snuffed with nothing left to burn,

Tell me my brave God, where then will I turn?

Did you like this? You can read 89 of them in my book, Prescriptions from the Rhyme Doctor.

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The Godfather’s Priest?

Photographs are memories. I have a great many (15,000 plus) tucked away in my archives. Most portray days gone by when photographs were held in high esteem. They were once not merely snapshots of everyday living. From these photographs I have been able to draw a better understanding of my family and their lives. Photographs can form a collective memory of individuals that lasts a long time. In most cases this is a good thing. However….

The photograph that I frequently use for my online presence is one that was taken for the 25th anniversary of my marriage to my lovely wife. For this photo, we were both dressed in traditional Tirolean attire and I thought my individual photo looked fine until a couple of years ago.

My brother was on a Skype call to me in Italy from Mexico when he inquired about this photo. “Why are you dressed like a priest?” he asked. I explained Tirolean fashion at length to little avail. He was struck by the photo and concluded our call by stating flatly that I looked like the Godfather’s priest. (I suppose it was the lack of a coat collar.)

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I have thought about that conversation a lot and I do hope that I will be remembered more for being a writer than looking like the Godfather’s priest. But just in case, “Vi benedetto!”

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Hello, My Name Is Ashley

A couple of years ago, I was constantly forced to call various utilities by phone such as our satellite television or internet service providers. The purpose was almost always to correct a bill they had screwed-up. After battling through the mine field of automated menus, scratchy music from decades past and endless inputs that never got inputted to begin with, I arrived where I wanted to be; speaking with a real, live (or at least semi-live) human being. Great! Then came the familiar greeting. In a voice that was unmistakably Pakistani, my customer service representative said, “Hello, my name is Ashley…. how may I help you today?” But of course, before he would actually help, I had to endure the “Vee have wary special deals today for our bestest customers.” After my refusals were finally understood, we moved on to my problem at hand. But guess what? Problems can not be resolved by reading from a rehearsed script card.

These encounters always ended in partially resolved issues, compounded by the frustration of dealing with someone who did not indeed speak or understand my language fluently. The result? After an honest effort on my part, I simply cancelled these services and replaced them with those offered by companies whose employees spoke American English.

My encounters with these captains of American capitalism always begged the same questions. If I was indeed a “wary” special customer, why treat me like an unknown assailant from the street? Why do you employ people who can’t communicate in my language? Would none of our unemployed be willing to do this job in America? And lastly, Do you really expect that I am going to put up with this nonsense forever?

Unfortunately, “American” business is no longer done in America. The business model of today’s communication giants is simply “get them in the door with ludicrously low rates for 12 months then feed them to the wolves.” There is no honor in this approach but it has been adopted by virtually everyone.

A look at the fine points. No, I am not prejudiced against Pakistanis or any other particular group. However, I do not think it is too much to ask that services provided in the United States of America be accompanied by customer service representatives who speak fluent American English. I have the same complaint when the fellow on the other end of the phone is from Liverpool, Mexico City or Leningrad; if we can’t fully understand each other, where is the hope? Any country in the world expects as much; why not the USA?

By the way Ashley, I don’t care at all that your actual name is Farooq. I just want to be able to understand what you’re telling me and vice-versa so that we can solve a problem together.

Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at Amazon.com

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Reading The Label

When I was a boy of perhaps 13 or 14 years old, I developed a unique habit of carefully studying the labels on the many 45 rpm records that I owned. Fortunately, I had a girlfriend whose father owned a jukebox supply business and I was set free in an endless inventory of 45s to pick and choose at a nickel a record. In time, this gave me a large inventory of my own. I spent many a long afternoon dodging my school homework and quietly going through these records and learning the artists, writers and arrangers. The labels themselves intrigued me. Names that have since vanished were the standard stock in those days: Sun, Laurie, Decca and the like. I learned a great deal about their catalogs, artists and writers.

The first great fact that I discovered was that Dion did indeed have a last name just like the rest of us. It was DiMucci, and it was plainly printed on each of the records for which he wrote or co-wrote the song. This great epiphany soon gave way to hours of studying the B-sides of all of his hits and not so hits. I learned that Dion’s B-side hit “Little Miss Blue” actually was anonymous and that the writer’s name had eluded discovery. (It did turn up years later.) Then patterns began to develop as I learned the names of the great songwriters of those days.

Some names and their relationship to the record were obvious at first glance. Neil Sedaka wrote most of his own stuff and it was not unusual to see his name listed as the writer, sometimes alongside that of one of his co-writers, Carole King. Others were less obvious. John D. Loudermilk had a small hit of his own but in fact was a writer of many hit records for other artists. Bobby Vee wrote only a few of his own songs.

Gradually, I honed my mini talent to include learning all of the writers, artists, arrangers, back-up groups and their inter-relationships and histories. Everyone has heard of Richie Valens. However, I actually grew up in the same town in which he lived, San Fernando, California. I taught school at the high school he attended and I learned the intimate details of his life history, including where the parents of his famous girlfriend Donna lived. They were, in fact, customers of mine when I had a paper route as a youth. The line, “I had a girl, Donna was her name” became more vivid to me as I could picture how he may have stood outside his girlfriend’s house on a street darkened by the foliage of heavy maple trees.

There are a lot of unwritten histories out there and I am proud to say that I learned a lot of them by first reading the labels on my old 45s.

Later in life, my love for writing seduced me into the world of song writing. Because I became a writer of music, I learned even more of the names and the histories. When you are out there on the streets peddling your tunes on Tin Pan Alley, you develop a real empathy for other writers and artists. This is not an easy business. But learning how others had dealt with the same adversity decades before helped to see me through many long days and even longer nights.

Now I have many compiled catalogs in my head. They are much like the old stock lists I had searched as a youth in that back room of the business of my girlfriend’s father. It is of little use to anyone but myself. This nostalgia collection spans from the 50’s to the late 80’s and includes thousands of titles. Perhaps I would make a good Jeopardy contestant if the answer was, “He wrote Bobby Vee’s hit ‘The Night Has A Thousand Eyes.’” (Answer: “Who is Snuff Garrett?”) Right, Alex!

So I leave you with a parting question to ponder on behalf of all of those semi-known artists and writers (myself included). Who sang the 1966 one hit wonder “You’re Gonna Miss Me?” (Answer: The 13th Floor Elevators, of course!)

The photo above is the cover to my book, Three A.M. – The Complete 1970s Song Lyrics, available at Amazon.com. It catalogs the lyrics to my 1970’s music.

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Lunedi Senza Parole #153

Indovina dove! Guess where!
Foto © Allen E. Rizzi

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The 40 Year Epic Fail

Was ist ein vierzigjähriger epischer Fehlschlag? Weiter lesen!

I have been blessed (and cursed) most of my life as being a polyglot. While I speak a dozen languages, German has always been more or less my second language since childhood. Yes, it’s true my mother forbade me and my father from speaking the tongue in our home. We went out to the back lawn and whirled away ungebunden nonetheless, disturbing only the birds with soft Viennese accents. I have always loved the German language and speak it fluently in several (5) dialects with much pride.

Some 40 years ago I met my wife and we have been happily married ever since then. We have very few disagreements and tend to learn a lot from each other every day. Because I was a teacher and college professor, I have an enthusiasm for sharing my knowledge. I have taught my wife to fly fish, shoot a gun very accurately and embrace the great American West. She, in turn, has taught me hundreds of things including how to make soap, better apply logic and take more meaningful photographs.

Well, needless to say, my enthusiasm for teaching my wife the German language began decades ago. Yes, I was well aware that as a member of a family that was almost completely exterminated at Auschwitz, she may not have been titillated by the Teutonic tongue. However I innocently wanted to share my enthusiasm for a language I love and so I started off slow. For many years the progress was nil.

When we moved to the South Tirol of Italy two decades ago, I felt it imperative that my wife to speak German as it is the predominate language in our extreme northern region of Italy. In many nearby villages, only Südtiroler Dialekt is spoken. I stepped up the pace significantly. She actually got pretty good at reading German; she can read a Zeitung ohne Probleme. However, she never grew fond of speaking German and at the end of the day she simply doesn’t like the language. Ich verstehe es!

This evening, like many others, I drilled away like a camp commandant over the dinner table: What does kurtz mean in English? How do you say “tall” in German? How do you order two biers in our local dialect? How do you say “the world has gone to hell?” The session wound up as it always has with my exasperation and a final question, “Wann wirst du Deutsch lernen, meine Liebe?” After 40 years of epic failure on my part, my lovely wife won’t even reply, “Niemals!”

Obstinance can turn to spite. Often I get the question from my dearest, “Why do you start speaking only in German after a couple of drinks? Ah but I am quick! Answer: Schnaps macht die Sprache lebendig! 😉🥃🥃

Was kann ein armer deutschsprachiger Mann als nächstes tun? Wait, I finally hear a faint reply in German from the kitchen: Halt die Klappe! (Du hast recht…)

Wenn Sie Deutsch lesen, kaufen Sie bitte mein Buch: Neues Wiener Konservatorium – Ein Blick zurück aus Amerika: Deutsche Ausgabe

If you’re like my wife, the book is also available in English.

Raining Tuna

I am by most accounts fluent in many languages. I speak eleven languages with varying skill and consider myself well prepared for a conversation in many tongues. I am not perfect but I am competent…. normally.

However, I am also an American and like so many of my brethren, I am a bit linguistically lazy. Having lived in northern Italy for many years, I consider myself completely fluent in the Italian language. Where we live, you have to be fluent in Italian, German and Nonese (local dialect) just to buy bread.

This brings us to why it is often raining tuna. In Italian, tuna is “tonno” and thunder is “tuono.” My unflappable American accent often forces me to say, “Guarda su, arriva tonno!” (Look up, the tuna is coming!”) My Italian friends often respond with a snicker, “How many?” This has been a local joke for a decade. I honestly know the difference but my mind often doesn’t tell my mouth what to say.

In my enthusiastic rush to conversation, I seem to always say “pesce” (fish) when I mean to say fish or peach (pesca). I have asked more than once for a kilo of pesce at the local fruit market only to be reminded that fish don’t grow on trees. “Lo so, lo so, lo so,” I mutter as I pay for the damned fruit.

Likewise, I once said that I found it very interesting that a German tourist had eaten “marmellata di viga con formaggio” for dessert (vagina jam with cheese). Oops! I meant to say “fichi” (figs). In the midst of old ladies hurriedly crossing themselves and gasping “Madonna,” I repeated the statement twice as I was sure of my diction. Finally, a cousin approached and whispered, “You make-a big-a mistake-a!” Yes, he was most definitely “right-a.” This difference I learned on the spot. But I still carry the memory like a red badge of stupidity.

Last, but certainly not least is “scopatore.” A “scopa” in Italian is a broom or mop. If a “attore” is an actor based on the noun “atto” (act), I figured adding “-tore” would work as well with any noun. So for the last ten years, I have told everybody here that I do the mopping in our house while my wife vacuums. Jokingly, I have said that my wife “mai imparata la scopa” (never learned how to mop). Therefore, with false pride I have repeatedly stated that I am a “grand scopatore” only to recently learn that I was saying in idiom that “I am a big fucker.” Ouch! No one ever bothered to tell me what I was saying until a friend recently laughed his ass off over dinner and laid the truth on me like a hundred pound salami. Apparently my way of applying logic to idiom doesn’t work hereabouts. It does make good fodder for my local friends who like to kid me a lot. (Well okay, unmercifully!)

Tonno or tuono: Only an Italian would know for sure. Being a poor immigrant, I continue to exclaim that the tuna are coming every time I hear a thunderstorm approaching. In somma, Io sono un grand scopatore che mangia pesce e pesca ma non mangia la marmelatta di viga con formaggio. Dico sempre quando arriva temporale, “Guarda su, arriva tonno!”

Mi dispiace…. la lingua è difficile.

Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at Amazon.com

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Your Opinion Counts

Opinions are the stuff we all share with each other. They are the glue that holds our society in balance, giving each of us the opportunity to express our wishes, concerns and thoughts. We offer our opinions freely in this country and unlike other countries, we consider this normal behavior. But does your opinion count?

Your opinion does count!. Well, at least to me it does!

I write this weekly blog diligently every Monday and Friday for the benefit and enjoyment of others. I often receive comments but what I really would like to know is: Are you enjoying the blog and is there anything that you would like to see more of? Is there a specific subject that interests you? Let me know. Your opinion counts.

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The Big One That Got Away

I have been a fisherman for over 68 years and like most of us who are constantly on the stream I have heard my fair share of stories. The most popular are (in no particular order):

1. You should have been here yesterday…. they were really hitting!
2. Yeah, I’ve been here only an hour and I’ve already landed 20 fish.
3. I was here last week and had two Rainbows over 10 pounds apiece.
4. You should have seen the big one that got away.

Obviously, as in most human discourse, there must have been some grain of truth in these stories to propel them forever onward. However, even a novice angler is apt to ask himself, “Where’s the proof?” Suspended believability really doesn’t work too well stream side. Enter the digital age!

Decades ago, it was difficult if not entirely impossible to take a photo of your “proof” with a bulky Brownie Box Camera. Your ghillie had to be at the ready or you had to improvise the shot yourself. Neither really worked with any great regularity. Now if you don’t have a Go-Pro mounted onto your head, you probably at least have a pocket digital camera ready to record your exploits on the water. Boasting requires it so! The ego is now digitally driven!

The above photo was done with a Brownie Box Camera. The obliging ghillie was my father. The fish in hand was a six pound German Brown Trout landed by the author on the Owens River in Northern California in May of 1956. Here is another photo, this time of a ten pound Steelhead caught on the Smith River in Oregon in 1996. While these photographic proofs are 40 years apart in time, they do show that not all fishermen are complete liars.It’s the same person doing the same thing over a period of many years. No stories, just the truth backed-up by a little proof. But stories continue to persist; it’s in a fisherman’s blood.

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I have often been on the same stream two days in a row and yes, the action was red hot one day and completely dead the next. That happens in any sport you can name. However, one day does not negate another; all must be taken together and synthesized into a life long fishing experience. I can remember one day long ago on Black Creek in the Oregon Cascades where almost every cast was answered by a very small Cutthroat Trout. Twenty and hour? Very doubtful. I did not actually record the FPH (Fish Per Hour). There are waters that I have fished where two Rainbows over ten pounds apiece is a possibility. However it is also an extreme rarity that is likely reserved for anglers like Brian Williams and therefore “misremembered.”

Then there is the big one that got away. Ah yes, I’m sure that I have been there on more than one occasion. Every fisherman has had a similar experience. Sadly most of these fish seem to “get away” when nobody else is around and in the total absence of at least a poor snapshot. The fact that it got away to begin with makes the blood rush but also makes a moot point in the end. A great man (my father) once said, “If he got away, forget about it and keep fishing.”

So to recap a bit:

1. Yes, sometimes the fishing was better the day before.
2. Nobody probably lands twenty fish an hour unless they are scooping goldfish out of a tank.
3. If you claim to have landed two Rainbow Trout at 10 pounds apiece in one day, I want to see the photos!
4. There will never be a way to see the big one that got away so why bother bringing it up.

If you enjoy fishing stories, you might be interested in my book The Blackest of Canyons and Other Micro Tales of Fly Flishing

Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at Amazon.com

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Walking Off The Job

Over the past couple of years, I’ve heard a lot in the news about people walking off the job to demand higher wages. Awhile ago there was a national protest by fast food workers who demanded that their wages be doubled. It seemed on the surface an admirable idea; very American in fact. All of this sounds great in a touchy feely way; great that is unless you are a retired person. We “seniors” usually don’t have a job to walk off of and if we demanded that our social security benefits be doubled, you would hear a laugh from Washington that could be heard around the world.

In fact, “seniors” are one of the largest demographic groups in America. Although we outspend all other groups, we are the single group in our country that is chronically ignored, taken advantage of and generally screwed, all without the benefit of any redress. Of all of the social injustices protested in the last century, dumping on our older population has not been one of them. Strange….

Last week, while paying bills, I noticed that literally everybody wants more money for less product or service. Sewer rates are up, yet I pee about the same as ever. My car insurance jumped over 8 percent though I have a perfect driving record. Groups with a voice (municipalities, insurance companies, special interest groups, etc.) cram the airways with their whining and whimpering and they generally blackmail their way into getting what they want. Senior citizens, as we are mockingly referred to, have no voice and no power. AARP? Please, give me a break! These were the first guys to throw their membership under the bus to insurance companies and other powerful Washington groups. Again, AARP? Please!

While the costs of everything have increased enormously, when it comes to the Social Security Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA), our government insists that there is little or no inflation. I’m thinking that math was not the strongest subject in school for virtually all of our bureaucrats. Excluding such items as gas for your car is not being honest or even a quarter to honest. It is ironic that the lot of them don’t look any thinner; perhaps they were all playing hooky at McDonald’s when they were supposed to be learning that one plus one does not equal three.

Another thought floated by me as I was paying those bills. I grabbed it out of the air before it left the room. While retired people can’t walk off the job, they sure as hell could go on a spending strike. Think about that just for a moment. If all retired people in our country didn’t spend a nickel for 30 days, what would happen to our economy? It might collapse. Even our 30 something yuppies would have to quit fingering their smart phones for just a moment and take notice. Just an idea….

Remember, people who are receiving Social Security benefits are not receiving welfare like so many of our countrymen. Social Security is not a gift from a benevolent government. Recipients are just getting a pittance of of their own investment returned to them, sans interest, over a very short amount of time. It’s actually like putting money in a bank at zero interest and then being told that after waiting decades, you can only withdraw a small fixed amount every month. Fair? Not really. Social Security recipients have no media charm, no group to speak for them and certainly they can not walk off the job. A spending strike just might force the good folks in Washington to take notice and maybe even throw us a bone, maybe even one with a scrap of meat still on it.. Again, just an idea…. do you have any?

Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at Amazon.com

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