Sunday, August 16, 2009

Getting "The Dirt"

Recently, Maureen and I took a trip to Italy. The top of my list of things to do was to visit the birthplace of my father and my mother’s I got this idea to gather some soil from these towns and bring it home.

We rented a car in Sorrento and headed toward the hills of southern Italy. Our first stop was Castel Baronia- Dad’s town. All I could think of was getting "The Dirt." We stopped at a little General Store and bought two large plastic containers. Everywhere we had been in Italy we found the people extremely friendly--but in the small towns they are a little shy of strangers. I had my Willie Nelson T-shirt on with a picture of a pot plant on the front-- I think they thought it was a tomato plant!

Anyway, with my broken Italian I convinced “ Maria” - a local shop owner with a garden in her yard to give me some "earth." After she realized that my father was from her town and what I wanted, she jumped in with both hands and joyfully filled my container.

On to Ceppaloni , Grandpa’s birthplace and an even smaller town with no one in sight (lunch & nap time I guess!). Well, I helped myself to "the dirt" from a small vineyard- my Grandfather
would have been proud- and off we went.

I had to ship "the dirt" via Fed Express and sure enough it arrived at my door 7 days later like they had promised.

The following week we had my niece’s wedding in Florida and I wanted to distribute "the dirt" amongst my relatives. Maureen and her very talented sister Patty found bottles that looked like small wine bottles. They filled each one with "the dirt" and attached tags with the Italian flag & the name of the towns. Off to Florida we went!

After all this trouble we were not sure if everyone would be as enthusiastic as we were about "the dirt"....

Just before my Niece’s wedding ceremony we gathered twenty or so family members together. I gave a little speech about gathering "the dirt" and began by calling up my Aunt
Gloria ( my Mother’s sister) and presented her with a bottle from her father’s homeland. There was not a dry eye in the place !!!

For some of you that do not know, my father was only 46 years old when he passed away suddenly of a Heart Attack. I was the oldest (18) of 4 children and my bother Ronnie was only 7. To see my brother’s face when I presented him with the bottle of earth from our father’s town and birthplace was worth all the trouble a thousand times over.

It doesn’t stop there! A couple of weeks ago we went to a wedding in my hometown, Oyster Bay, New York. Of course we brought along several bottles of "the dirt" with us for distribution. I visited several elderly members who couldn’t make the trip to Florida and brought them pictures of Italy and a bottle of "the dirt." I also visited the cemetery and buried bottles at my Fathers and both Grandfathers grave sites. I'm telling you, I’m getting so much mileage out of this "dirt"!

I know this "dirt" thing is getting long---but one more "dirt" story!

One of my oldest family friends (82 years old) we respectfully call "Uncle Gene" has one of the best tomato gardens in all of Oyster Bay. There is actually a contest held every year for the biggest and best tomato and Uncle Gene wins most of the time. Well, Uncle Gene has not been well lately so we visited him and brought some of "the dirt." I found him on his porch overlooking his garden. I took a container full of "the dirt" and as I told him the story- I took handfuls of the Italian earth and sprinkled it throughout his tomato garden. As tears flowed from his eyes, it began to rain and the drops fell onto "the dirt."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

This summer is the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock.

1969 for me was the Summer of Love. Not only was I a 20 year old college student in probably one of the most exciting periods of American history ( Dylan – “ The Times They Are A Changing”) but I met the love of my life Maureen, my wife of 35 years.

When I heard about this 3 day concert in the hills of upstate New York – how could we refuse?

A bunch of friends and I got our little caravan together and got on the thruway and immediately we realized something special was happening – it turned into a parade of hippies 150 miles long!

When we finally arrived the tickets that we purchased for $18 (for a 3 day concert!) were unnecessary – the fences were torn down and the flood gates were open.

Aside from the rain, mud and nakedness – a fun time was had by all.

40 years goes by fast.