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October 28, 2011     Post-Gazette
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October 28, 2011

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POST-GAZETTE, OCTOBER 28, 2011 Page13 00abb00onno by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance I recently had to buy a new laptop My old one is about ten years old and quite obsolete. I have been nursing it along, but it was time. I'm the type that forms attachments with things I buy. As an example, I will keep a car until it starts nickel and diming me to death. And then, I will look for excuses to hold on to it anyway. One of my neighbors is a techie and found a laptop online that was on sale. It was a high-end computer that had a small three-day price attached to it. He called, I okayed the purchase, and when it arrived, he down- loaded a travelogue into it. It is a 55 minute overview of Sicily, narrated by an expert on all things Sicilian. The new laptop is high definition and the video was recorded in high definition. As a result, watching this trav- elogue makes you feel like you are in it, not watching it. That night, I had the liv- ing room TV tuned to some- thing, but I'm not sure what it was. I was reliving the video about Sicily and remi- niscing• You see, 40 years ago this coming summer, I spent the tlme between the 4  of July and Labor Day trav- eling throughout Italy and that trip started in Sicily• Sal Melt and I were old pals • from our late teens on. We ,were both from East Boston and both liked to travel. As young men, we tried to coor- dinate our vacation time in order to travel to distant places. He worked at Polar6id and would put in for time that corresponded to the Boston school vacations as that was the only time I could travel, being a teacher• I would also coordinate my music activi- ties so that I wouldn't be play- ing during vacation time. As a result, we traveled all over the world. Forty years ago, his par- ents, both retired from their jobs in Boston, decided to move back to their point of origin, a small town near Agrigento, Sicily• The follow- ing spring, Sal went over for a visit and decided to extend it for the entire summer• He called me to see what I had planned for my summer vacation. During that spring, I was teaching in Boston dur- ing the day, playing with a Dixieland band several nights a week, and commuting to the west coast to do some bit parts and character parts for thing being filmed and taped at Paramount. After listening to Sal, I decided to cancel out the few things I had booked for the summer months and join him and his family in Italy. I made all of the arrange- ments way ahead of time. First, I made sure my pass- port was up to date. Second, I booked a flight from Boston to Rome and third, a shuttle from Rome to Palermo. Babbo- nonno, then in his late 90s, made a list of places for me to visit. He described them the way they were when he left in 1896. I didn't want to shatter his dreams of Italy in the old days, so I just kept quiet and let him reminisce and write out an itinerary for me to follow. My mother asked me if I was bringing a camera• I said no, assuring her that I didn't want to look like the typical American tourist. The next day, she handed me a box with a new Kodak 120 pocket sized camera. Her comment was, "I've never been to Italy and I don't think I will ever get there. You take pictures for me to see, or don't come home!" I took her hint and bought a dozen cartridges of film for the camera and packed them and the cam- era in one of my suitcases• Just before I left, I called Sal and gave him my time of arrival in Palermo. He then tol-a !me tliit he, his father, and his uncle would take the train northward from Agrigento and meet me at the Palermo airport. I arrived late and had to take a later shuttle from Rome to Palermo which, initially, was almost impossible• A young man about my age, who sat next to me on the plane, made sure I wouldn't have trouble getting to my desti- nation, and when the re- schedule was confirmed and I had a new ticket, I called the Palermo airport and had Sal paged. I explained the dilemma telling him I wouldn't be there for another two hours. Sal, his father and uncle were there waiting for me when I arrived- a.nd the vacation started, The first thing I did was rent a car. There were two agencies at the Palermo air- port, Hertz and Maggiore. I decided to try Maggiore and rented a FIAT 127, a small car, but big enough to hold four adults. Driving to the hotel, I noticed the license plates of the cars. Seeing we were in Palermo, the plates all started with PA and then the numbers. The car I rented had a plate that started with NA, and I was -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 told that it stood for Naples, or Napoli. This didn't mean anything then, but it would cause me a bit of trouble later• Well, when we finally got to the hotel and I checked in, it was time for the afternoon siesta. In Italy, everything closes in the afternoon from anywhere from two to four hours, and there was an hour or so left to relax, and I knew if I didn't, jet lag would set in. Later, after a shower and a change of clothes, the four of us headed out to see down- town Palermo. I had not met Sal's uncle before this point in time. His name was Gus and he was the brother of Sal's mother• He was living with Sal's folks il. his retire- ment. He was a bachelor and occupied one of the several bedrooms in the giant sized condo that Sal's parents owned. Gus and I hit it off. He spoke fluent English with- out an accent, which is hard to do when Italian is your first language• As we walked through the streets of Palermo, he described the sights as if he were a tour guide. He seemed quite well informed• Sal's father then told me that "Uncle Gus," was a retired armygeneral and diplomat. The truth of the matter was that Gus was a general in Mussolini's inner circle who helped plot the over throw of the Fascist government. When Italy sur- rendered to the Americans in 1943, he became part of the interim government that eliminated the monarchy and helped make Italy a republic. After the war, he was part of the Italian delega- tion that headed to the U.S. to participate in the new world organization, the United Nations. Sal's father had been a police captain before the war and went into the army with equal rank when the war started. After the war was over he went back to his job, retired from it a couple of years later and decided to .bring his wife and young family to America. When he and Sal's mother, Maria, retired from their jobs in Boston, the family was grown and on their own and the decision was made to return to their roots in Sicily. I told Sal that'I didn't have to be back until Labor Day and, along with his father and Uncle Gus, we began to plan out a tour of Sicily and then the mainland of Italy. After a few days in Palermo, we decided to head south toward Agrigento and Sal's family home. En route, we were stopped by the Italian equivalent to the state police (Polizia Stradale). It seems that a yellow FIAT with a Naples license place was reported stolen from a Maggiore rental agency and I was driving a yellow FIAT_ with a Naples license plate. TO BE CONTINUED... GOD BLESS AMERICA * The Socially Set (Continued from Page 8) After her recent presentation on her latest best-seller, "Wicked Bugs," at the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, noted author Amy Stewart, center, receives congratulations from Pamela Thompson, left, Manager of Adult Education, and William "Ned" Friedman, Director of the Arboretum. The very "social" event was well received by attendees as they enjoyed fresh cider and delectable goodies while learning about horticultural horrors, some of which have changed the course of history. (Photo by Hilda M. Morrill) visit For costs and tickets, contact Brendon Stellman at 617- 542-7286, ext. 249, or e-mail Enjoy! (Be sure to visit Hilda Morrill's gardening Web site, In addition to events covered and reported by the columnist, "The Socially Set" is compiled from various other sources such as news and press re- leases, PRNewswire services, etc.) * Do Your Research (Continued from Page 2) may be hard to find another location where the card can be used. A business that files for bankruptcy may honor its gift cards, or a com- petitor may accept the card. Call the business or its com- petitor to find out if they are redeeming the cards, or if they will do so at a later date. Treat the gift card like cash. For receivers, it's ira- portant to report lost or sto- len cards to the issuer im- mediately• Some issuers will not replace cards that are lost or stolen, while other issuers will, for a fee. Make sure to use gift cards as soon as possible, because it's not unusual to lose or forget about them. For more consumer tips you can trust, visit • Editorial (Continued from lost too, but also learned much by entering the politi- cal process. Over the years I have met a lot of wonderful civic-minded people. How- ever, the flip side, I have met a lot of egotists who think the world revolves around them. This political- class actually believes all the wonderful campaign stuff written about them and most of it is self-published. Legends in their own minds. I have never had an ego problem. I know my strengths andveaknesses. Everyone can't be the bright- est bulb around, no matter what their campaign litera- ture says. I was always taught to do my best and leave something better than when you found it. Some pols actually believe they can change the face of the earth with some foolish plan. Herman Cain comes to mind quickly with his 9-9-9 plan. So simple, right? If you disagree with him, he just calls you stupid. He's appar- ently got hisego on back- wards. This year in the crowded city councilor race, I had been working for one candi- date and also assisting an- other but lately egos have crowded this race so badly that you can't even find the real candidate anymore. I have had enough and just want to holler but that would be an incredible waste of Page 3) energy, so I've decided to pull back from it all and let them all duke it out without my help. Whoever wins, wins and whoever doesn't. The sun will still shine tomorrow no matter the November 8 results. If you've ever wondered why so few voters vote, blame it all on meaningless ego clashes. Meanwhile, I am glad for the few friends I've met along these 41 years of campaign trails. And they are few. Most of the time you know you're getting used just as much as you are using them for your experi- ences. However, you can actually make real friend- ship bonds with some genu- ine politicians out there. For me they include: Frank Bellotti, Mickey Roache, Bruce Ayers, Marie Howe, Rob Consalvo, Diane Modica, the late Freddy Langone and Jimmy Kelly and my best friend of all Ray Flynn. This year I've gotten a little burnt out between what I am seek- ing and what I am seeing. I also might add on a positive note that while never my close personal friends, I have come to respect others like Tom Menino, Joe Timilty, Jim Hennigan, Larry DiCara and Stephen Lynch. After that there is more said than done. Sometimes you just need a break from politics to regroup and find your priorities again.