The Dreams of Giovanni and Antonio.

My son Zack and his wife Afi are in New York City today.

The Truzzolino Bros.

Their first stop this morning was Ellis Island. They would be on a mission to find as many Sicilian relative’s names as possible engraved onto the Memorial there.

I hope they were able to find the engraved names of my Uncle Giovanni Truzzolino (left) and his brother Antonio Truzzolino, my maternal grandfather. The picture to the left was taken in one of those funny photo booths that were popular back in the 1950’s. I believe this shot was taken at the San Joaquin County Fair in Stockton, California in 1956. They were both in their mid-60’s.

Giovanni and Antonio arrived in this country during the first decade of the 20th century with courage and little money…yet with vivid dreams to succeed in the New World.

They were hard working, salt of the earth, fun loving, family people.

The early 20th century was a period of time when those vivid immigrant dreams, courage and ambitions were celebrated and memorialized in stone by Americans.

The early 21st century is a period of time during which Americans chastise, condemn and destroy similar vivid immigrant dreams, courage and ambitions.

How selfish our nation has become.

Tuscany’s Montorio.

Located on a lush, green hilltop overlooking Montepulciano and Tempio di San Biagio, Tuscany’s Montorio is a wonderfully renovated destination property reborn from the ruins of a 15th century convent.

We were able to spend several nights there last fall, using the central location to tour by day Orvieto, Pienza and other nearby hill towns.

While memories are still fresh, I sketched a view this week of our apartment lodging and have hopes of having the drawing soon find it’s way to Montorio’s gracious owner/hostess, Stefania.

Our rooms were located in the large, two story stone faced building in the rear. We had a full kitchen, a well appointed living room, a large full bath and two comfortable bedrooms suitable for four.

It is a fabulous place.


A Tahoe hike: Pure Bliss.

Our daughter Mimi visited us last weekend at the Tahoe summer cabin. After two solid weeks of damp, cool May Sierra weather prior to her arrival…I was itching to get outside …enjoy some sun and to wander through the forest.

Mimi got online and researched several potential short journeys through nearby woods for the two of us. Understand right off the bat that Mimi is a seasoned outdoors person.

Examples? To my extreme parental displeasure, she and her husband Brandon have hiked to the very top of Yosemite’s legendary, frightening Half Dome…and have precariously stood on the rocky summit of Arizona’s Four Peaks.

Me? I walk 3-4 miles a day on level urban asphalt and describe it as an adventure. So, to call this a mismatched outdoor duo is an understatement. Of course, Mimi’s only requirement for me to be able to pair up with her on a trek this day was “No walking on asphalt!”

Appreciating my tenderfoot abilities and being the loving, considerate daughter as always…Mimi chose an “easy” trail on Tahoe’s west shore beginning at D.L. Bliss State Park. It is a 4.5 mile hike to Emerald Bay. Doing the math, that would be nine miles round trip.


We pulled into the park check-in point to pay our day pass fee and were greeted by the camp host… a loquacious sixty something woman who must have felt some sympathy for me as she learned what we had planned for the morning. “OK! Have fun! And stop by on your way out for a kiss!”  I actually didn’t hear her say that. Mimi did. And she never lies. So it must be true. And I hadn’t even shaved.

I found a really nice hiking stick and off we ventured onto the as required, “non-asphalt” trail. Gorgeous views of a stunning, very calm early morning Tahoe were off to our left. The well traveled path is about 200 feet above lake level and the views in all directions were incredible, even on this low overcast morning. We enjoyed the large stands of cedar and pine… and were amazed that so many fallen trees along the way have been left to rot…a natural way for the forest to self manage.

Every so often we’d speak loudly or Mimi would whistle or hum some unrecognizable new music hit to let the Tahoe black bears know we were in their neighborhood. Fortunately the only two legged outdoorsy creature we saw along the way was a skinny wild turkey…which fearlessly approached us, likely hoping we had some spare trail mix or an Oreo or two to share.

After almost three miles and an hour and a half or so at 6,000 feet above sea level, this urban hiker had met his match. Seeing my tongue hanging out, Mimi agreed it was probably time to turn around and head back to the trailhead. Of course along the return, she had to climb some craggy, off-trail rocks and dangle from their edges to satisfy her true outdoorsy-ness…as well as wreck havoc with the ticker of her old man.

We had a great time that morning. We got to have some wonderful “daddy-daughter” moments to share…as well as being able to appreciate for the millionth time or so,  the incredible beauty of Lake Tahoe and it’s bountiful glory.

I looked for the friendly camp host as we left, wondering if she really wanted to plant on me that promised kiss… (Mimi would have to look away) but alas she was nowhere in sight…probably peeking out her trailer window and laughing at the sight of a “mature” urban hiker unable to make it to Emerald Bay and back.

Photos from our hike follow…

Mimi and Dad.
Mimi and Dad.

Tahoe from the D.L. Bliss trail.

Woof. Woof. My Friday Dog.

Woof. Woof. This Friday meal has me barking for more.

Kris and I arrived at our summer retreat a couple of days ago…and of course the world’s best hot dogs…Casper dogs…were on our shopping list.

No better way to watch a couple of ball games on the tube tonight…with stove top grilled foot long dogs…sliced lengthwise down the middle.

Slapped a soft, Dutch crunch roll in the hot pan…with a healthy slice of havarti cheese set on one half to melt.

Grilled a few sweet onions and some ripe, juicy cherry tomatoes…set those delights on the other half of the roll…added lots of mustard…cracked open a bag of crunchy, delicious kettle fried potato chips…and presto!

My Friday dinner on a short leash!

American Music.

It was an astonishingly beautiful early fall afternoon on Isola Pescatori, one of several small islands set within northern Italy’s Lake Maggiore. On that day a bright, crystal clear blue sky had bloomed after heavy morning gray overcast.

After we enjoyed a casual, delicious seafood lunch al fresco at Ristorante La Pescheria, a leisurely stroll through Pescatori’s narrow, winding, cobbled passages followed.

We soon discovered The Hotel Belvedere and it’s small, inviting, covered patio overlooking Maggiore to the east. The luncheon rush crowd had passed. We asked if it was too late to sit, relax and enjoy some wine.

Of course not! Cool rose was served. A stunning view of the lake’s blue water and the distant Monte Rosa mountain range captured us. Pleasant music drifted over us as we visited, gazed and sipped.

Soon, five songs segued seamlessly; Frank Sinatra’s “Come Fly with Me”; “The Dock of the Bay”…Otis Redding’s 1968 hit; “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong; “Heart of Steel” from New Orleans sextet Galactic featuring the incomparable voice of Irma Thomas…and The Doors “Riders on the Storm” with Jim Morrison from 1971.

This was not just any music we were hearing and enjoying. It was American Music.

In the few moments which followed, those five songs by Sinatra, Redding, Armstrong, Irma Thomas and The Doors created not only a magical soundtrack for the two of us that gentle midday in distant Italy; those five songs also reminded me how much American Music is woven into the musical fabric of people’s hearts, minds and souls everywhere.

Timeless songs amplified through a simple background music sound system while we relaxed on a small patio in the middle of a northern Italian lake. Basically in the middle of nowhere. 

The songs composed a perfect reflection of nearly every genre of American Music that writers and performers have been creating and contributing to the world for decades. The jazz, swing, soul, blues and rock in that particular set…in all its forms, textures, beats and rhythms…represented the heartbeat of a nation’s culture.

It’s a musical heartbeat that is loved. Everywhere.

It’s a heartbeat that transcends politics and religion; a heartbeat capable of pumping the power to unite rather than divide.

With respect paid to Louis Armstrong…what a wonderful world it would be if we could let the power and emotion of the popular music we export display what America might truly represent, rather than the bombastic America some politicians and pompous talking heads portray us to be…

…Wistful thoughts imagined one wonderful day in Italy, with help from our companions Frank, Otis, Irma, Louis and Jim…

Thank you all.

For a look at the Belvedere on Isola Pescatori: