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The Return To Italy

 

We come and go between our residences in both North Carolina and the Italian Alps with great regularity. We have done so for years and have gotten used to the routine. With few exceptions, it’s not a terrible transition. So this year should not have been any different, right? Wrong!

Let’s start with the trip itself. We got up at 2:30 in the morning in order to shut down all of our services in North Carolina, lock-up and head to the airport with a neighbor who thankfully agreed to pick us up at 4:45 AM. (Bless you Don!) We got to the airport in twenty minutes and waited for our 6 AM flight to Atlanta. Things went smoothly and we were in Atlanta by 7 AM. Of course the trouble was that our flight to Munich, Germany did not depart until 5 PM. That’s ten hours in the Atlanta airport with little to do but exercise out thumbs.

We eagerly sought out the Sojourner’s Restaurant on the C Concourse to have breakfast. Sparing all of the details, let’s just say that it was the worst meal we have ever had anywhere on the face of the planet. The grease was thick, the service surly and the end result was extreme gastronomical problems for the next 20 hours.

After twiddling our thumbs for hour after hour with no hope of even a nap, we finally boarded the plane for Munich. The plane was half empty so we moved to the back to avoid a family with two babies. (I always have a great fear that some toddler will throw up on my laptop.)  I watched a not too memorable movie and settled down to a couple of glasses of wine to mask the taste of the rubber chicken dinner.

I finally went off to sleep only to be awakened by an unusual occurrence: An ice storm off the coast of Ireland at 30,000 feet. I did not indeed know that hail can strike a plane at that altitude. After listening to the engines surge for ten minutes or so and hearing the pelting come to a stop, I rolled over, sighed and nodded back off. A short time later I smelled food and was treated to a boxed breakfast of dubious content. Setting the rock hard mini bagel aside, I awaited eagerly our decent into Munich.

The plane landed a bit early at 8 AM and so I was sure the shuttle we booked would be there at 9:30 AM. They are supposed to be there at the Treffpunkt every three hours starting at 9:30. They never showed up, opting to come at 12:30 instead. That was another 4 1/2 hours of sitting on our butts and pleasantly yammering in German.

The bus finally showed up but the driver seemed disoriented. We made our way down the continent toward Bolzano, Italy. Four and half hours later the driver missed the exit for Klausen, sending the only passenger to exit there into a complete panic. This poor elderly soul had a speech impediment and I needed to translate her frustration to the driver. In the end, he decided to drop the rest of us off in Bolzano and then return to Klausen. Forty hours had passed so I reluctantly muttered, “Whatever!”

Our friend met us in Bolzano (Bless you Maurizio!) and finally we were home some 42 hours after getting up for the journey in the United States. This is normal fare for us so we didn’t bitch. Then the real fun began.

Item One: No hot water or heat. The whole damned Italian made system was off. Actually, we found that it had been sabotaged by a neighbor who hates Americans. (Who doesn’t?) We got that one fixed in short order but had to turn on the oven for heat. (Better that I had stuck my head in it.)

Item Two: We apparently brought a snow storm with us. The morning after our arrival, we were treated to a sloppy foot of fresh snow. I took the cue from my Italian neighbors and let God do his magic. In other words I sat on my butt with a grappa in hand and waited for the white stuff to melt away.

The next surprise was that the Italian postal service had decided in our absence to deliver mail only on alternate days. The whole country is bankrupt, so what did it matter.  Their avisio did not faze me; I have become almost immune to third world inconveniences. The fact that our trash was not picked-up as agreed was also not a surprise. I will leave it at the curb, Napoli style, until they fetch it eventually.

We then found that virtually everyone had changed their business hours during our absence. After we arrived at the recycle center to where we must drive at our own expense to mandatorily recycle virtually everything, we found that center too had changed its hours and was closed. No problem: Another expensive trip and a pair of rubber gloves solved that one.

The corker was our hasty trip to Trento to retrieve our re-issued green cards. By law they were supposed to be ready early last fall but we were told because of the influx of illegal immigrants, they would not be ready until January. We arrived at their office on April 16 only to be told they would not be ready for another two weeks. All of this for a couple that have been EU residents for over 16 years. Ridiculous is too kind a word. The Italians could not even build a toy Lincoln Log Cabin without a delay of a year. La vergogna!

The Italian holiday of April 25 (Liberation Day) came and passed without a single thank you as always. These folks obviously think they liberated themselves from the Nazis. (Yeah, right!)  Instead, virtually everyone here now wants to take a poke at us about Donald Trump. My response? Fan cuolo!

Three weeks in and we are still stumbling around between miscues of dentist appointments, frantic grocery shopping to avoid the intervalo, attending multiple funerals and trying to get a new hot water system. This is not a vacation folks! This is simply Reality 101 in Italy.

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Hewwo There Wittle Fewwow!

One of the questions that constantly vexes me is, “Why does every small child in America talk like Elmer Fudd?” Have genetics gone wild? What happened?

As I child I was treated regularly to Elmer’s odd speech on television. However these were cartoons made to entertain children not serve as a how to for the English language. Where did we go wrong? From the past I can recall such phrases as:

“Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits!, He-e-e-e-e!”
“Come over here you scwewy wabbit.”
“Why, you wascally wabbit!”
“West and wewaxation at wast!”

But these days, I hear the same thing in every corner of our society. At the market, the youngster pleads with his mother, “Oh pwease, oh pwease can I have the chocowate wabbit?” “I feel vewy wucky to have such a wikable mother.” What the hell? When did all of America start speaking like cartoon imbeciles? Do these poor creatures not learn the proper English language somewhere before they are adolescents?

I think that maybe parents are at fault for encouraging life-long speech impediments by turning their urchins out to pasture on the questionable sustenance of internet and television cartoons. Are all of our children simply waffable wittle wascals who can’t wead, wite or wisten! It looks to me like the education system, both at home and in schools, is a widdle wusty!

The next time you encounter one of America’s little dummies, you may want to say, “Hewwo there wittle fewwow. How’s Elmer and all those waffable wunatics on telewision. Are you getting any smarter or are you just waughing out woud?

Pwease fowwow this bwog by cwicking  fowwow bewow. Your comments are always welcome.

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Return Of The Tinker

tin·ker (tiNGkər)
noun (especially in former times) a person who travels from place to place mending metal utensils as a way of making a living. The word comes from the 13th century as ‘tyckner’ or ‘tinkler’ a term used in medieval Scotland and England for a metal worker.

The bad news: They’ve been gone for some time. The good news: They’re coming back!

For years now, Americans have been throwing away household items that didn’t work anymore. From knives that need sharpening to metal tools to toys to lawnmowers, etc. America has simply grown weary (and lazy) of fixing things. It is often much cheaper to buy a new one that to fix the old one. However, times are changing.

The tinker was a fixture in America from the start but especially well-loved from the depression years until after World War II. People didn’t have the money to buy a new one so they fixed their belongings, often with the help of a travelling tinker. He’s the guy who fixed your child’s broken wagon, fixed a broken hand mower (Yes, millennials, we used to push a mechanical mower.), put pots back together and even sharpened kitchen knives. He was sort of a jack of all trades when it came to metal objects.

Just recently it has been stated that tinkers are making their way back into the American scene. Why? One possible explanation is that the American public is starting to turn away from cheap, ill-made Chinese household objects in favor of more expensive American goods. If you’re going to pay more, it might be cheaper to maintain your investment rather than chucking it into the garbage can. Another explanation could be that there just isn’t anyone out there who can currently fix things. If you need a carpenter, plumber or electrician, chances are that you’ll wind up with a guy my age at your door. Generation X and their spawn do not aspire to these trades, preferring to all be hedge fund managers. If they can’t be hedge fund managers, they often choose none of the above as an occupation.

Whatever the reason, it’s good to see the return of the tinker. They have been out of circulation long enough and America needs them to fix our stuff. Welcome back!

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The Return Of The Munk

Several months ago, I wrote a piece about my nemesis the Chipmunk. (See https://rizziallen.wordpress.com/2016/05/27/me-and-the-munk/)

There I was in my serene bliss, thinking back upon the days when Mr. Chipmunk was torturing me with his crafty acts of thievery. I sighed a bit to think he had gone to the great grain silo in the sky after being gathered up in the jaws of our neighbor’s dog. Cruel fate but what did it matter? The little son of a bitch was gone! Or so I thought.

The warm afternoon enveloped me as I sat with my gin and tonic in hand, gazing into my green backyard. At first I thought I saw a bird out of the corner of my eye. It was just a little movement in the grass but it looked loathsomely familiar. I strained my eyes for a closer look. Good God, it was him! And then I thought I saw three tiny jumping bumps behind him. Lord, he was back and this time he brought the whole family!

I stumbled up and out of my chair to break the news to my wife in the kitchen. “The little bastard’s back and now there are three more of them!” I blurted. “Three of what?” was the response. We both went back onto the deck and watched as three (or was it four) chipmunks romped back and forth through our yard. It was like the movie Groundhog Day but with a smaller cast. I jumped full on into my yard as if to protect my fiefdom from these varmints. They immediately scattered and I was left with the same question as months earlier: What to do?

In the First Battle of The Munk, we decided against the plank. It seemed too cruel to lure an animal with food to a drowning in a bucket. Besides, I’m not much for dispatching animals of any kind, even those who cause me grief. But as the chipmunk continued to wreak his havoc in my yard in his second annual assault, I remembered Walmart has a nice Daisy pellet rife with a scope. Hmm.

We thought about what to do for a week or so. The rifle was purchased. I reluctantly took a couple of shots with that pellet rifle but I only managed to break the bird feeder that my nemesis sat upon. Finally, I just let it go. In a world that is full of nuclear threats from third world midgets and crazy people shooting each other down for naught, it seemed as though a my battle with the chipmunk paled in importance. Yes, it is still frustrating to be constantly outwitted by a rodent and yes I would rather he find someone else to haunt. But I’m sure he or one of his spawn will be back every spring just to let me know who’s really the boss. I am destined to forever hear that now familiar faint murmur from my back yard: Veni, Vidi, et torquentur.

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Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?

It’s a great line from the The Lovin’ Spoonful’s song of the same title. It’s kept me on the straight and narrow for years. Why? Because early on, I learned that you can’t have everything and that you need to constantly make decisions: Smart decisions that benefit your life and don’t destroy it. It seems simple enough yet there are millions of people who just can’t say ….”pick up on one and leave the other behind.” This includes everything from a spouse to a job to a way of living. It can’t all be done in a life time so some real critical thinking has to be employed and decisions have to be made straight away.

Here’s the complete lyrics written by John Sebastian:

Did You Ever Had To Make Up Your Mind?

Did you ever have to make up your mind?
And pick up on one and leave the other behind?
It’s not often easy and not often kind.
Did you ever have to make up your mind?

Did you ever have to finally decide?
And say yes to one and let the other one ride?
There’s so many changes and tears you must hide.
Did you ever have to finally decide?

Sometimes there’s one with big blue eyes, cute as a bunny,
With hair down to here, and plenty of money,
And just when you think she’s that one in the world,
Your heart gets stolen by some mousy little girl,

And then you know you’d better make up your mind.
And pick up on one and leave the other behind.
It’s not often easy and not often kind.
Did you ever have to make up your mind?

Sometimes you really dig a girl the moment you kiss her,
And then you get distracted by her older sister.
When in walks her father and takes you in line,
And says, “Better go on home, son, and make up your mind.”

And then you bet you’d better finally decide.
And say yes to one and let the other one ride.
There’s so many changes and tears you must hide.
Did you ever have to finally decide?

Here’s the original mono recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8NZUdtEuKI

Have You Ever Had To Make Up Your Mind? Well, have you?

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American Term Limits Initiative

For years, America has talked about term limits for our local, state and national elected officials. Sadly congress, both local and national, itself must enact legislation to limit their own terms which they will never do. The time has come to quit talking and act.

The American Term Limits Initiative is here and it is super simple. It puts the power back in the citizen’s hands. Since elected officials won’t act, we will. Every American, regardless of political party or philosophical persuasion can simply do the following four things:

1) Register to vote if not already registered.

2) Vote against any incumbent in any election (primary or general) who has already served 8 years in office in national, state and local offices, regardless of their record.

3) Write elected officials indicating your intentions to vote against incumbents who have already served 8 years in office.

4) Sign the term limits petition located at: https://www.termlimits.org/termlimitspetition/?gclid=CM-1wcK0jtMCFZCLaQod7aINMA

It is doubtful that a national referendum on this subject will ever succeed and there is no way elected officials will ever impose term limits on themselves. It’s our country. Let’s do it for them! Take the above steps and be part of the solution.

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Medicine – The Foreplay Of Death

The human body and mind are susceptible to a wide variety of maladies which can occur at any age. Most of us are fortunate enough that sickness does not arrive until later in life. Some are not so fortunate. All along the way, there is this thing called medicine.

We begin taking medicine in our infancy: Everything from polio shots to vitamins. As we get older, our medicine changes. Some need acne medicine, others need asthma medication. But what is clear is the older we get, the more medicine we seem to need. In addition to what we actually need, we are constantly enticed to use more. Medicine is indeed the foreplay of death.

Today in America, we have an over-drugging of our entire population courtesy of the nation’s large drug companies and the Wall Street pushers behind them. If you watch television for only one hour a week, you will see a plethora of advertisements telling you that you absolutely need some medicating. We have become a nation of whining, pill popping nincompoops who have all but lost the will to say no. Most Americans cheerfully guzzle a Z-Pack when they get the slightest sniffle and then wonder why they have become immune to most antibiotics. Duh! According to the lords of the TV, most of us need a pill for just about everything from procreating to rheumatism and if one pill doesn’t do the trick, a six-pack is often better.

The good folks of television land also insist that everyone has somewhat uncommon illnesses like plague psoriasis, advanced rheumatoid arthritis and bi-polar disorders. Christ, what about the common cold? Oh yeah, they occasionally have something to peddle for that too. But whoa Nellie! What about those side effects? I mean, do we really want to risk an “increased risk of stroke or death” over cough syrup? Methinks not!

This is not to say that there are legitimate reasons for taking medicine. Medical research has provided us with many useful drugs that improve quality of life as well as cure what was incurable hundreds of years ago. That is the major upside to medicine. The downside is that we are taking too much of what we don’t really need. Either way, in the end, medicine is the foreplay of death.

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What’s Important And What’s Not

What’s important and what’s not? That’s the biggie question that all of us get around to answering sooner or later. Just like the Ten Commandments guide our lives whether we like it or not, the truth of what’s important has the same effect. The trouble is that almost all of us have a different learning curve.

When we are young, our sense of importance usually revolves around ourselves. We are self-important, self-centered and self-serving. We pretty much tend to ordain what’s important in our lives. The rest doesn’t really matter as long as we’re having fun. Our cars are cool, and our girls are fast or at least we think so. That’s what’s important; the rest is not.

Time has a way of changing everything in our lives including the ordering of what’s important and what’s not. When we hit the marrying age, our sense of self-importance is usually accompanied by the importance of others, namely spouses and family. We begrudgingly give up some of our self-importance and replace it with concern for other people and other things. Our view of what’s important shifts a bit. Family is what’s important, money is important but cool cars and trolling the mall becomes what’s not.

When middle age rolls around (Hey, it does folks!), our view of what’s important and what’s not changes again. Health becomes a major focus when just a few years ago, it wasn’t even on the radar for most of us. Family, money and free time are important. What’s not important are small things like receding hairlines and exceeding waistlines. Notice that the money thing is still there.

At last, geezerdom is upon us and what’s important suddenly becomes small. Just another tomorrow or two would be fine. Health is extremely important but the money angle has faded toward what’s not. Most of us do a count every year and figure we will probably scrape by until we kick the bucket. That bucket or more precisely when it gets kicked becomes all important. What’s not? Pretty much every thing else.

What’s important and what’s not? It depends on whether you’re standing on the starting line or the finishing line or somewhere in between.

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James E. Allen Etchings – Iron Men (Teaming Ingots)

For Sale

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

Iron Men, (Teaming Ingots) (undated 1935) Two men With Crucible
17”x13” Pencil Signed Etching #73 Mary Ryan Gallery Catalog 1984
Inscription: “To my father. Christmas 1935.”

Price: $6,900

This is an original, signed etching by famed artists James E. Allen. It is NOT a copy. This original was inscribed to his father William Henry Allen for Christmas 1935 and hence is quite rare.

Serious Inquiries Only May Be Directed To This Site

Background

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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#MeToo

The #MeToo hashtag has trended on Twitter for some time and resounded around the world as the legitimate mantra of women who have been sexually assaulted or abused. All of these women (an a couple of men) should be applauded for stepping up with courage and speaking out. They are most certainly right to do so.

However, there are a couple of things that need to be addressed with this movement. The first is somewhat obvious. Why would any woman or man wait 10, 20 or 30 years to report sexual abuse? It’s a fair question. If a person was a victim of theft, identity fraud, assault on the street or a vehicular accident they would speak up immediately or lose most credibility in their complaint. We have all heard the excuses from Hollywood that basically translate into: “I was assaulted but my career and money were more important.” That illustrates a huge lack of character among some of these victims and speaks volumes about the Hollywood mindset as a whole.

The second thing that needs closer examination is the fact that the #MeToo movement has in some instances been hijacked as a political tool. Accusing someone of sexual misconduct is being used regularly to smear and defeat political opponents without any proof whatsoever. Often the public lacks the investigative skills to determine whether or not an accusation is factual. Law enforcement takes forever. Just ask any legitimate rape victim! However, things move quickly in politics and a mere rumor can kill a candidate before any facts are discovered. This #MeToo McCarthyism is becoming way too prevalent and detracts from the legitimacy of the movement and especially women everywhere who have real experiences with abuse, sexual assault and harassment.

The recent special senate election in Alabama was a good example. Roy Moore was accused for political reasons. His accusers were largely debunked but the damage had already been done. Is it really fair to convict someone without proof and due process? (By the way, I’m not a fan of Roy Moore by any means.) It can be a bit like calling a single mother a crack whore and having her kids taken away only to learn too late that she wasn’t guilty as accused. Likewise, when a person is patently guilty with abundant proof, such as Al Franken, we should not soften our condemnation for political reasons. In short, #MeToo should be taken out of politics and left to the realm of social justice and law enforcement.

A third thing to consider is whether or not we’ve gone overboard a bit in defining sexual abuse. If a man in the workplace tells a female coworker, “You look great today.” is that now going to be considered sexual harassment or simply a compliment? Can we still compliment each other without fear of reprisals and Gloria Allred showing up on our porch? Is it still okay to give a consoling hug to a woman who has just lost a family member? Or is that inappropriate touching? Will a man be held guilty of sexual harassment if he holds the door open for a woman? If we push these questions and answers too far off center, we are apt to become emotionless robots. Tough questions for tough times.

It is true that we must flush out all the perverts, abusers and rapists from all sectors of our society, not just government and Hollywood. They are everywhere: At work, at the market, at the doctor’s office and in every corner of our lives. They need exposing and punishing. But in the heat of the moment, it would be wise to remember the lessons of McCarthyism and vigilantism and where that led us. Brave women (and men too) should be encouraged and applauded for coming forward with true accusations but let’s not let this turn into a carnival of accusations against innocent people. In the end, it comes down to fully enforcing all applicable laws and not turning a blind eye for any reason to sexual misconduct but at the same tempering the unbridled @MeeToo enthusiasm to preserve our humanity. Like anything in life, #MeToo is a matter of truth snd balance.

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