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The Fear Of Being Milkless

What a queer and delightful sight! Nearly the entire population of our tiny town rushes to the local market like a pack of lemmings to strip the shelves entirely of milk and bread. What brings about this strange activity? A calamity of biblical proportions? An imminent nuclear attack? Permanent Covid lockdown? No. In this small corner of the world, it is the mere mention of that four letter word – Snow.

I am not exaggerating here. When the weatherman predicts even the slightest chance of a dusting of snow, people here run to the markets and stock-up on milk and bread. I’ve often mused as to why milk and bread? Are they thinking of waiting out a blizzard making bread pudding? As crazy as it is, it is also very comical to watch.

But the fun doesn’t stop at the local markets. No indeed. Entire shopping malls shut down in the face of less than a half an inch of the white stuff. Schools are automatically closed for days or even weeks, assuring our under-educated children remain so. To be sure, somewhere in the distance there is a bedraggled old woman shrieking, “Run for your lives – the chariots are coming!”

Yet in the midst of this circus-like activity, every under-skilled driver sooner or later decides they must venture out of their warm garage and give their car a chance in the destruction derby. It’s not that the roads are impassable with such light snow, it’s just that our local drivers here in North Carolina are about 90% from up north where they tend to be a little under-skilled when it comes to driving or down south in Florida where snow is just a Christmas theme. The results are as equally entertaining as the run for the roses in the milk aisle. There is something devilishly funny about seeing an old douche bag with a Brooklyn accent slide into a ditch with her Cadillac four wheel drive utility vehicle and then utter that she should have bought the bigger model.

It is the fear of being milkless that drives this frenzied behavior. Having lived in the Italian Alps where 8 to 10 feet of snow is normal, I can only shake my head in disbelief and wonder what these poor souls would do in a real snow storm.

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Lunedi Senza Parole #134

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

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The Return To Italy

Old post but still true!

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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…

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I Never Got To Be A Bass Man

So what’s a bass man anyway? A bass man was a byproduct of the 1950’s and 1960’s; a singer who sang the bass doo wop lines and deep bass lines in those classic songs. We have all heard these gems (well, some of us older ones anyway). When I was in junior high school in Sylmar, California, I became intrigued with the whole bass man notion. At the time I had a girlfriend whose father owned a jukebox supply business and I had free reign to his inventory of oldies. Actually, they were newies at the time. In 1963, I decided I was going to be a bass man; seriously, I thought this would be my life’s work. The songs of the late 1950s and early 1960s had convinced me that I would find success with my newly discovered deep voice.

I spent the years from 1962 to 1965 perfecting the art of the bass man. I sang all the bass parts to all of the records of the day despite the fact that at the time I naturally sang alto in the church choir. The final clincher was the release of Mr. Bass Man by Johnny Cymbal in 1963 (Kapp Records). I was totally convinced this was my ticket to the future. I did the Blue Moon parts perfectly and learned all the classic bass man scats. I felt the longing rhythms calling to me at night as I lay awake late in the night in San Fernando, California during the long march of the early 1960s. It was a divine voice that called: boppa, bop bop; ramalama ding dong. I was confident as I combed my butch-waxed hair back each morning to explore a new day and learn new bass man parts to sing. I was on my way to the top.

In 1964, I showed-up at my brand new high school in Sylmar, California full of anticipation to be the next teenage sensation bound for Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. In 1964, I regularly performed acapella to the amusement of my little band of surfer friends. and even did the street corner scene similar to Dion and the Belmonts sans New York, thank God. The year 1964 was a good one but something changed abruptly. So what happened? Did I grow up overnight, get wise in my new found old age? No, American popular music simply changed dramatically. Before I could get a toehold in the bass man business, there were no more bass men. The prospect of becoming a bass man was overrun by change. The phenomena is called timing. I’ve never been particularly good at timing; it is an illusive skill.

So what does a man do with the talent of singing bass scats for the rest of his life? That’s a very good question indeed. Not being one to give up on an idea, I pursued the bass man notion, not as a money making vocation, but as a hobby of sorts. Actually, it was more like a spiritual hobby. For the last 55 years I have been, you guessed it, a bass man. When I performed publicly in the 1970s, I would always throw an old piece into my act to see if I still had the right stuff; I did. Later, I even incorporated some of the old  bass man formulas into my own music writing. I still do the familiar bass scats for my wife, much to her chagrin. (I’m sorry honey, it’s in the blood.) I amuse myself by keeping perfect time with the old recordings and doing for pure joy what I once was sure was to be my thing. And if I ever find myself at the button in Double Jeopardy, I will surely not miss any answer regarding 1950s and 1960s music, specifically regarding bass men and their contribution to American popular music.

However, I never actually got to be a bass man. A big deal? Yeah, kind of a big deal with me, but one of the many little disappointments in life that I have grown to live with. A big deal with my friends and acquaintances? Absolutely not. But if you are reading this and have any sense of rhythm, you must know where I’m coming from.

For those of you with a good memory and a heart of gold, here’s a link to Johnny Cymbal’s Mr. Bass Man. I would love to hear from anyone who actually remembers this song. Did you want to be a bass man too?

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Another Year

I’m a person who likes to look forward not backward. In that spirit I am writing this on July 16, 2018 in the sincerely hope that I am still around to read it when it is published.

When you get to my age you start reading the birth dates of recently deceased with more interest. It used to be that those dates read 1909, 1913, 1920 etc. Lately those dates are approaching my own birth date with great rapidity. In fact, I am starting to see a lot of people dying who were born much after I was. It fills even a summer’s evening with a cold breeze.

Morbidity tables aside, most of us just sort of take for granted that we will be around a long time. It’s a natural human thought, expressed somewhere between hope and reality. But when we get older, we start checking off those years more deliberately and taking better notice of who has passed on and how old they were. I remember when Glenn Fry of the Eagles died. I was in a store lamenting the passing of a fellow lyricist and friend when the young millennial taking my money remarked, “Wow! He must have been really, really old!”  I sighed and finally told the young sprite that Glenn was actually born after me. It’s all in the perspective I guess.

A little update written in the present day:

This year has been less than a red letter year for me. I started off the year having a needless operation. One of my doctors claimed I had colon cancer and performed a right hemicolectomy. I almost died in the hospital after a routine surgery turned into a nightmare of mishaps, one after the other. One of those was provoked pulmonary embolisms which in turn caused an episode of atrial flutter. This in turn can often be fatal but I managed to survive.

Two months later I was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer and went through months of radiation treatment complete with a myriad of side effects, I’m hoping to survive this as well but time will tell.

Anyway, as we chalk off another year and begin anew in 2022 I wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year in the hope that we will all be together reading my tomes in 2023.

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From Here To Eternity (Not The Movie)

A classic from the vaults of 2017…

From Here to Eternity is not the movie. Rather this describes our yearly translocation from the United States to Italy and back again. I thought about calling this post The Endless Summer but we also travel in the fall.

We are fortunate enough to live continuously on two continents. We have a home in the Italian Alps and one in North Carolina. However going from one to the other involves ingenuity, a good deal of time and a ton of patience. It is that latter quality with which I find myself in complete short supply. I am getting older and patience is not in abundance in my battered brain.

Let me start by saying that neither of our residences is close to a major airport. I often envy the international traveler who can get on the plane where they live in Los Angeles and get off where they live in Rome. Ah, to be a big city boy once again!

Our trans-Atlantic travel is sometimes smooth but that wasn’t to be this year. This is our actual travel story:

Our odyssey begins in the Italian Alps when my alarm clock goes off at midnight. My wife and I hurriedly jump through the shower and we begin madly shutting down all of our utilities under a black Tirolean sky. Out of breath, we do some last minute checking and jump into a waiting car of a friend whom I’ve coerced into taking us down the mountain to Bolzano some 50 kilometers and an hour away. It is one in the morning. We creep through the night in anticipation of what’s ahead. We finally arrive in Bolzano after the 15 hairpin turns of the Mendola Pass. It is here where the actual journey begins.

We wait impatiently for the airport shuttle to arrive. They are always on time. After all we are in the German speaking province of Bolzano now and things take on a Teutonic order. We came early as usual just in case of Italian-esque problems. None appear. We load our luggage which consists of only two small carry-on bags as we have learned that anything more is suicide. Off we hurl into the black, up the Brenner Pass, through Austria and on to the airport in Munich. It’s a 4 1/2 hour ride up but we want to make sure we make our 9:30 flight to Atlanta. We hit the airport early and it’s only six AM.

The Munich Airport is bustling, even in the early morning hours. We go through the departure desk and security in one smooth motion. We have done this over thirty times before so we are practiced. If everything goes as planned (it seldom does), we will be off for Atlanta at 9:30 but we have already been up nearly ten hours.

This is a good trip and we haven’t been bumped. That means we don’t need a ride out to a hotel in Erding and the added time and expense. Oh rapture! Wait a minute, no – wrong. We are bumped and must now go back through security, out of the airport and wait for a hotel shuttle. We are now in Deutschland and nothing is free. The shuttle ride is an arm and a leg but we finally make it to Erding after waiting and hour for the bus.

The hotel that I booked hurriedly in the airport informs me that the 120 Euro a night room is now 750 Euros because they are in the middle of Oktoberfest. Scheisse! They are nice enough to lead the poor Americans to a cheaper hotel and we finally throw down our luggage in disgust, take a walk, and head to our favorite Greek restaurant. A complication quickly arises. My wife is sick from so much travel and can’t eat. I polish off her meal as well as mine, belt down two Ouzos and head for the hotel. Any festing in October is out of the question.

The morning comes and we take an overpriced cab to the airport and start all over. This time the Gods of air travel are kind…. sort of. We can’t go to Atlanta but Detroit is open. I bob my head in the affirmative. We board, I play a quick game of trivia when we reach cruising altitude and we both settle in for the 10 1/2 hour flight. The good folks on the airline keep us busy. “Want coffee?” “Want a hot towel?” No, actually I just want to sleep for our journey has just begun but sleeping is a near impossibility. The mixed linguistic clatter from the cabin and the whining infants will make sure my eyes are not shut for more than ten minutes. Tick-tock!

We arrive in Detroit and go through customs. It is a ten minute procedure compared with over an hour in Atlanta. I file that gem away in my brain for next year. We skip the baggage carousel (remember we pack light). We have to wait a couple of hours for the Atlanta flight but it seems worth it. We make it on the plane and do the three hour plus pop to Atlanta. The trouble is that the airline confiscated our carry-on luggage, saying there was no room on the plane. At this point, I really don’t give a damn… they’ll show up.

We make a smooth landing in Atlanta, Georgia. It would be grand if we could get off the plane, which has now become a swampy breeding ground of germs, and just go on home. Yes that would be great but it ain’t so! We have to go again through security. After assuring everyone we are not Sacco and Vanzetti, we are allowed to proceed on the tram toward the gate for our connecting flight to Asheville, North Carolina. The trouble is that flight doesn’t leave until 10:30 PM and it’s only five.

Now we kill five hours eating and trying to nap. The napping thing just isn’t meant to be. After what seems to be an eternity, we see that the gate is open. Great! We’ll be home in an hour. Wait a minute, actually no. It seems that all flights are oversold. Now our options are simple: Spend the night in Atlanta and catch a morning flight or rent a car and drive the three and half hours to home. I opt for the latter as I just want to get into my own bed.

The rental car counter isn’t actually in the airport but in a satellite building. We walk and walk and finally we are there. I ask the smiling face behind the counter for directions to I-85. He obliges but with a major omission. We get on I85 and after a mere 3 miles traffic comes to a complete stop. Mr. Smiley sort of forgot to mention the re-pavement of two lanes of the interstate in downtown Atlanta. I muster up the absolute last of my patience and we finally make it to the Asheville airport after 6 hours of driving. I want my damn luggage before we go home. They all know us at our small airport and one airline friend sees me coming like Popeye spinning his pipe. “Your luggage is right here Mr. Rizzi. We know what happened and we’re sorry… but good to see you again.” I put the bags in the rental car. Thank God it’s only another 20 minutes to the house.

It is now nearly six in the morning and be have been in transit for some 60 hours. As I enter our home I turn to my wife. I honestly want to cry but simply mutter “never again” as I admit to myself that we will be doing this all over again in a few months but in reverse.

PS – Our return trip was also bumped so we spent a night in Atlanta. The good news? We got moved into business class and were able to get a few winks before landing in Munich and taking the train home. Oh, to be young again….

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I’ll Drink To That!

Happy New year!

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Here in the Tirol people tend to drink a bit… well okay, a lot!

We’re not talking just alcohol but every imaginable liquid under the sun. The first morning ritual is the coffee. It is like the scene from The Godfather II; everyone plays with their coffee, stopping just short of making love to it. Me? I just belt one down! I prefer macchiato which literally means stained (with milk). I enjoyed that for years until my doctors put me on the forbidden decaf diet. I still manage to make a decaf taste good by grinding my own decaf French roast beans and cheating with a bit of cream.

Then there is obligatory morning juice. You take your pick but it must be fruit juice of some sort. We tend toward apple juice hereabouts as we grow tons of this stuff and some must be consumed locally. Personally, I prefer…

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Hey, Mister Publisher

The following is a small excerpt from one of my latest novels, Hey, Mr. Publisher. I am presenting it here in the sincere hope that some of you may want to buy and read the book. Whether or not you are a musician, I think you will appreciate this tale from the 1970’s music business and a peek inside the real world of music. You can find the book here in either digital or paperback format: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1091065330/

Chapter 1
Death Of The 60s

“The 1960s were lying on their death bed and Albertino Sapetello was just fine with it. Big Al was the last of the Sapetello family and the prospect of not having any children to carry on his name was becoming more burdensome every day. The last glimmer of hope was eclipsed three years before when little Jimmy had died of influenza and bad luck. There were no more toys, no more coloring books; Jimmy’s room had been cleaned and erased of his memory. Even the photographs were missing from their frames. Everything left had been tucked away neatly in a dresser drawer. Then, there was Lucy. She probably would have hit the road anyway. She hadn’t been crazy in love with the idea of raising a child right from the start. Like a lot of young girls in the 1960s, her high school graduation brought the promise only a future of pregnancy could bring. She laughed it all off and drank it off when a pasted smile couldn’t finish the job. She had been pissed for all of the nearly four years of Jimmy’s short life. Some would say she simply didn’t care; Most would say she didn’t care. But after Jimmy’s death, she just faded away like a ghost’s shadow skirting across a barren moonscape. Al hadn’t heard from her since the funeral and found some small solace in that fact. Withdrawing into a world that seemed prefabricated for him, Al found that he could not look back nor could he look forward. His life was deadlocked. Days were just a calendar component whose pages yellowed woefully slowly. A legacy of any kind seemed inescapably absent in both the past and in the future. The spirit was simply absent. Life felt to have been snuffed out with Jimmy’s death but there was still a smoldering small spark. It sat glowing faintly in Al’s cold heart.

Albertino Sapetello liked to think of himself as a survivor. He was cut from the cloth of the 1950s. Tailored to fit the times, he had seen the years march by him until at last they looked like tiny dots in the future. The 1950s had been serene but too much in a hurry. Things were moving too quickly and without purpose. He felt that he was no longer in control and that scared him. Yet he saw himself as tough, resourceful and a get it done type of guy but perhaps with too large an amount of humanity. Just surviving a post-war childhood was probably a battle won of sorts. But Al felt no victory in his blood, just the aching of his heart. Victory? Absolutely not but if being 24 years old had taught him anything, it was that he would probably survive any onslaught. Above all, he was hopeful to the point of surety that the kinder world of the early 1960s would return soon. He had survived those years as well and in fact he had embraced them. Those were the years that Al remembered most and with a great fondness. They were the years in which he felt victory might be in his grasp at any moment. That kinder world simply had to return. “Man, would that be great!” he mused. He thought of long nights spent on the beach at Malibu and the prospects that a new day of surfing would always bring. It really wasn’t that long ago. Sometimes, a look back over a few years can seem like a perusing of a century. His breathing slowed a bit: the sand, the sun, the warmth were all on his bare shoulders now. He could feel the breeze at his back and taste the spray of the ocean. He remembered the first girl he’d had in high school on that beach. It now seemed like a lifetime ago. He was lulled further into a comforting past. The sport, the beer, and the girls: where had all those fine things gone? His breathing almost came to a complete stop. “That beautiful warm sun!” he thought aloud. Then he pensively reflected for a second or two about the moniker, Big Al. He never really got that one. The name had been bestowed on him years earlier on the sands of Malibu, as he was big indeed on a surf board back in the day. However, he wasn’t really big in a physical sense. He stood a mere 5 foot 9 inches, kind of average. Besides, he had been told by his father that his first name meant little Albert. He wasn’t little by a long shot either. He was average in stature but with a strong face chiseled to perfection. His deep set eyes were dark green and seemed to tell of big dreams. Maybe he just always thought big: beautiful and big like the ocean he loved so much. The air finally came back into his lungs like a rushing returning tide and he imagined he heard the engine start in his old 1956 Chevy from years ago. The engine’s rumble faded almost as soon as it had begun. Daydreams were for fools but he wanted so much to be foolish again.”

If you were piqued by this excerpt, please get a hold of your copy of Hey, Mister Publisher today! As James Cagney said in Yankee Doodle Dandy, “My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my sister thanks you, and I assure you, I thank you.”

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Lunedi Senza Parole #133

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

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Mellow Man

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
A very 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.

Coda Instr.

Back Scene 2011:

This is one of my favorite happy songs. It is not overcrowded with lyrics and lets the chord progressions do the talking. I played this a lot at clubs, parties, etc. It was also a good commercial success, being recorded by me and two female recording artists.

AER 7-11-2011

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