Passion… Tradition

Version 2

La bella Italia. Land of antiquity and artistry, mandolina and Cicciolina. Home of sea, sun and serenade… poetry, popes, and pasta. Favored with the grandeur of the Alps and the Amalfi. Mocked by the circuses of Benito and bunga-bunga.

What is it about this rich but contradictory land that made my father leave at an early age and never look back, while tugging his American-born offspring back again and again?

His flight had much or everything to do with a dying economic future within a provincial Italian social structure. He was young and on fire with dreams about breaking with the past.

Yet, we, the eventual legacy of his New World ambitions, shaped and programmed by American novelty and experiment, now yearn to age in the trusted old wine barrel that quenched the likes of Leonardo, Bellini, Dante, D’Annunzio, Galileo, Fellini, Sophia, and the father who left it all behind.

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My Brilliant Career


“Your career is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you’re going to get. But everything you get is going to teach you something along the way and make you the person you are today.” – Nick Carter, musician

If you’re not working your passion then you’re probably wasting your time. Right?

Well, sure, if you’re lucky enough to know your passion and you’re making a fine living working it.

But most of us trod a job path of hit, miss, and discovery that often means taking what comes, fair and foul. And perhaps because of this process, we earn something just as valuable.

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Frequent Floaters

My wife just took me on another cruise. This, our second, was a late-November Viking Rhine River cruise that carried us from Amsterdam to Basel, with well-chosen stops along the way.

First, let me make clear that whatever you’ve heard about the Viking junkets is probably an understatement. They treat you like pashas, with scores of staff coddling every whim, while the multi-starred menu would fatten the Mahatma

And their ports of call and excursions not only proceed with a “no-worries” precision but are actually interesting.

I say that my wife “took” me because she planned, gathered, and confirmed every detail of the trip. She chose this time and place because of a long-held hankering by both of us to see northern Europe during the Christmas season.

We weren’t disappointed. Big cities, like Cologne, Heidelberg and Strasbourg, offered dazzling holiday lights and displays; and the Christmas markets succored us with warm wine, hot schnitzel, and contagious bonhomie. My wife bought ornaments. I bought a wool hat. It was all grand.

Although this was only our second cruise, I had already detected a shared quirk among our shipmates. I describe it as a reorienting of life to coincide with, and be mere intervals between, the next cruise. I call it Frequent Floater Syndrome. Continue reading

DC Friends

“Is it possible for home to be a person and not a place?”
—Stephanie Perkinshandshake

I play with a community orchestra here in the “Greater Washington, DC” area, and at our last concert I struck up a pre-show conversation with one of the other musicians, a young woman of around 30.

She had been living in DC since her early twenties and during that time had played with the orchestra. She is a skilled hand on a stringed instrument called a domra.

A little over two years ago, she relocated to Portland, Maine but continues to return three times a year to play with the orchestra.

As we talked, I asked about her life in Maine and specifically why she decided to leave DC.

“All the years in DC,” she explained, “I never felt that I made any real friends… Oh, I had a good job and a good social life, but everyone seemed so transient.

She continued: “Even now I talk about my ‘friends’ as the people I care about and stay in touch with—as opposed to my ‘DC friends,’ who are people that I once knew in a fun way but never built any lasting bonds with.”

This admission surprised me. She is bright, accomplished, pretty, sincere, and has a great sense of humor. I just assumed she would be the belle of any ball, anywhere.

It got me thinking about my own links with the nation’s capital.

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Why write?


I recall an old cartoon that featured a series of monologue frames by a fuzzed 20-something. It went more or less like this:

“When I was in college I decided I wanted to be a writer.

“Writing was cool, I thought. I could write a best seller or a blockbuster screenplay… become rich, famous, go on “Letterman.” Meet chicks…

“Then, on the first day of creative writing class, the teacher told us: ‘If you want to write, the first thing you have to learn is to read. Read, read, read all the time… anything and everything you can.’

“Read? Who ever thought writing would be that hard?

“So I switched to Accounting.”

I never studied accounting or planned that writing would bring fame, fortune or Letterman. In fact, I never planned on writing as a career even though I loved words, language, and charting out thoughts in sentences and paragraphs.

Writing, I believed, was for writers. You know, the happy, tortured few who feel a great work of significance churning in their souls, begging to be put on page. That wasn’t me. I’d be too embarrassed to publicly air significant passions, inner thoughts, or—egads!—sex scenes. (Besides my soul never churned, except the time, when I was nine, that I shook hands with Roy Rogers.) Continue reading