Sophia Loren’s Kiss

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Sophia Loren and cousins (Scranton Times-Tribune)

In late summer of 1958 Sophia Loren, during her first trip to the U.S. after scorching on to American movie screens in her 1957 U.S. debut film Boy on a Dolphin, quietly left New York City in a limousine for a three-hour drive west to the old economically depressed coal-mining town of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

The reason for this private trip was that Ms. Loren, with her strong family bonds, planned to reconnect with some older relatives that she hadn’t seen since her girlhood in Naples. The family members had long since resettled in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and now Sophia’s visit to the U.S. finally gave her the chance to reunite with her lost kin and meet for the first time some of her new American cousins. Continue reading

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Sixty-Year-Old Tough Guy Attacked by Dreads

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“Growing old is like being increasingly penalized for a crime you have not committed.”  – Anthony Powell (English novelist; 1905–2000)

My old friend “G.” telephoned last week to talk about a recent crisis that’s been dogging him, something he calls “the Dreads.”

The Dreads, he tells me, are nighttime anxiety attacks that started almost on cue when he turned 60, which also coincided with the death of his favorite hunting dog, a Springer Spaniel named “Junior.” G. describes the attacks as waking at night with a dead feeling while thoughts spin out of control and time rushes into a void. Along with this, every present trouble and past mistake rush in to prey upon the spirit. He sums it up as “everything turns brown.”

(I get it—like the aftertaste of a large excrement sandwich.)

Although medication is helping him sleep and stay balanced, the bouts always threaten at the edge, and some of the night residue can’t help but seep into his daytime thoughts. He tells me that even his lifelong practice of meditation doesn’t protect him. Continue reading

Sleepin’ It Off: A Visit to the Apnea Ward

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Not long back, I began experiencing some sleep disorders, mainly trying to get up and walk while in a deep sleep. This usually ended in one of two outcomes: (a) I stumbled with a loud thump to the floor or (b), with the more successful forays, I reached the opened closet across the room, where the clamor of clattering hangers as I tried to advance soon awakened both me and my wife.

After several of these evening promenades, my wife insisted that I do something about it or at least find out what was causing them.

So, I visited a nice lady neurologist who took my vitals, asked some medical questions, made a lame joke about my cowboy boots (“Where’s your horse?”), and scheduled a brain scan.

After that came back fine my doctor then suggested I get tested for sleep apnea. This, she explained, would mean spending the night at a sleep disorder clinic, where they would closely monitor my nighttime, conscious and unconscious, activities. Continue reading

Food, Drink, Character Assassination

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Spring is here, and that can only mean one thing: It’s time to prepare for another Family Reunion.

And, while I can’t speak for other families, I know that our gatherings are not for the halt and the timid. You come prepared to feast robustly, drink valiantly, and weather a storm of jovial scorn.

I don’t know why my family excels at insult, but theirs is a wit that revels in verbal jousting and savors the personal put-down. It begins the minute you arrive at the event. Grab a drink, head for the shrimp cocktail, and brace yourself. Everyone’s a target.

Lost some scalp hair but gained more ear hair over the year? You’ll get a query: “Hey… is it migration season again?”

Put on a few pounds? Observation: “I see you got a new chin collar.”

Fashion faux pas? Request: “I’m sorry, Uncle, could you repeat what you said…your shirt’s a little loud.”

That’s the mild stuff over the hors d’oeuvres. The high humor comes at dinner and draws on insightful analyses of how present conditions link to lifelong shortcomings.

Don’t ask. Continue reading