MEMORIAL DAY 2023
“Yesterday America enjoyed the sacred flame of liberty. Today America enjoys the sacred light of equality. Tomorrow America shall enjoy the sacred sun of divinity.”
Forget the politics. Forget the nonsense. We are Americans. One country. Conceived in liberty and the greatest experiment of its kind. We are a tribute to freedom and leadership.
This is not a time to allow politics or corruption rule. It is a time for reflection, for remembrance. A time to remove ourselves from our daily lives to give thanks to those who served so we can have this lifestyle, this nation. Perfect? No. Show me something that’s perfect and I’ll show you something that’s not. But pick a place. Anyplace on this planet and I will find for you with minimum effort people who want to be here. We are a symbol. A bastion of freedom. And we have many to thank for that. That is what Memorial Day is about.
THE BIRTH OF ROCK n’ ROLL
“Rock n’ Roll is here to stay. It will never die.” From Danny and the Juniors.
As time rolls around so many things change. People walk on the moon. TV’s show color. Cars are made all over the world. AMERICAN cars are even made all over the world. On and on things change as the world turns. But there are things that stay pretty constant…MUSIC and specifically TEEN music and grownups reaction to it. As Rock n’ Roll hit the charts way back in the fifties music took on a new face. People like Eddie Fisher (a card carrying creep) were moved aside for a newer sound. Faster paced music with loud voices and instruments moved in. Concert pianists were shoved aside and replaced by showy, key-banging musicians who performed with a vengeance. Pretty sure that this music was the cause of so many fathers to go bald as they pulled out their hair from hearing their kids blasting it all over the house.
So the fifties roared in and the new sound and its stars took over. And stars they were. Here we are now some 70 years later and they are still stars. Pioneers who blazed musical trails and defined a whole new generation who believed in pony tails, poodle skirts, greasy hair (remember Wildroot?) and Lucky Strikes. And so, here we go. Down memory lane in a ‘57 Chevy. These are some of the best artists and songs of that early musical era in no particular order. See how many you can remember.
BILL HALEY AND THE COMETS
Originally formed back in 1947, this group recorded what became an anthem for early Rock n’ Roll tennyboppers. From ‘54 to ‘56 they recorded 9 top twenty singles with three making the top ten. But it was “Rock Around the Clock” that defined this group as it hit number one on the charts, the first of this genre to do so, and was the biggest selling single for several years. Even though they were clean cut boys, I imagine mom and dad’s reaction at just the thought of rockin’ around the clock!
This tall, skinny bespectacled performer actually didn’t hit the charts until about 1957 with his band, The Crickets. “Peggy Sue” and “That’ll Be the Day” were played and replayed on every AM radio station, probably more than any two songs ever were up until that time. Funny though that this overnight sensation was actually a few years in the making. He first appeared on local television in 1952 and opened for acts like Elvis in 1955. His tragic death in 1959 in a plane crash was further immortalized by Don McLean’s song, “American Pie. Have to say though, mom and dad may have liked his music. It was good to dance to but not so loud.
UH-OH!! Often described, and rightly so, as the architect of Rock n’ Roll, his career began in the mid 1950’s and his most celebrated works are still popular and have been covered by most bands, even today’s. His showmanship was legendary and was characterized by mad, mad piano playing, a powerful and VERY up-tempo beat and a raspy voice that could be heard blocks away. Hits like “Tutti-Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally” were instant hits and resulted in both white and black teens mixed in the same audience for probably the first time. This began dad’s rant of “TURN OFF THAT JUNGLE MUSIC AND GET OUTTA HERE!!”
Elvis was popular with the girls as soon as he hit the stage. The King had it all, good looks, personality and above all, talent. No list is complete without him. Songs like “Hound Dog”, “Jailhouse Rock”, and “Love Me Tender” (from the movies. Like he needed a movie!) left girls crying and screaming as they worshiped at his feet. He also had a sex appeal that no one before could brag about. His act was complete with moving hips which were not allowed. On his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show he was shown only from the waist up. But he would have been a flash if he could not flat out sing. And he did as he crossed over to soul, gospel and a number of Christmas albums. Probably the best pure Rock n’ Roll voice of them all.
Nicknamed the Father of Rock n’ Roll Chuck had charisma like few others. He could sing and play the guitar like no one before him. And he could do it all while doing his famous duck walk. Hits like “Maybelline”, “Roll Over Beethoven”, and “Johnny B. Goode” rocked the house as he focused on teen life and guitar solos. A great guitar player, he was a major influence on later rock music. His life was not without incident, as he did time for armed robbery and tax evasion. He was among the first musicians to be inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame when it opened in 1986. Always included highly on lists of great and influential artists, he achieved another level of fame. His rendition of “Johnny B. Goode” is the only Rock n’ Roll song traveling through space on Voyager. Dad is just as happy about that.
“While no individual can be said to have invented rock and roll, Chuck Berry comes the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together. It was his particular genius to graft country & western guitar licks onto a rhythm & blues chassis in his very first single, “Maybellene”.”
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
There you have it. With apologies to people like Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis and so many others, but I just can’t get them all in. Perhaps another time. For now, put on your blue suede shoes, get your best pal and let’s go to the hop!
Mother’s Day 2023
Happy Mother’ s Day to all you moms out there.
Remember, many women can be a mother. It takes a very special woman to be a mom.
What public figure do I disagree with the most. A tough question. At 70 years old, as an ex-teacher and small business owner, as a parent and as a citizen, I disagree the most with a group of politicians. Those who look to deprive us of basic rights. Those who seem to work against the values that built the country. Those who look to transform the country to a secular, totally government dependent society as we catch down to the rest of the world and degrade into a socialist society. The new Left, the new Progressives who want but refuse to talk, to discuss.
BORGO PAGLIANETTA PETRARA VERDICCHIO
“Wine is more than just the glass that goes with dinner. It’s what gets the conversation going at book clubs, gives any girls’ night a reason to run long, and can make cooking feel like an adventure.” (Taken from an article in Southern Living)
In Italy a “Borgo” is a small town steeped in history, possibly dating from medieval times. It can be surrounded by walls and is normally named for the nobles who first occupied it. So the Borgo di Medici would be the village or settlement of the Medici family. An equivalent of an American borough it can also be set outside the walls of an older city with its own church, post office and town center. Here tradition is the dominant lifestyle with culture and festivals set to the regional past. Borgo Paglianetto is one of about 260 Borgos located in Italy.
Verdicchio wine has its name taken from the grape. In Italian the word is a derivative of “verde” meaning “green.” The grape itself has a slightly greenish color and the wines made from it tend to share that hue. Verdicchio has a long history in the Marche region dating back to the fourteenth century. Because it can be rather temperamental and sensitive to climate conditions, yields and quality can vary greatly from year to year. But in spite of this, it remains very popular in central Italy and is actually planted more than some other varieties, most notably Chardonnay and Sangiovese.
Borgo Paglianetta’s “Petrara” is named for an ancient town over which the vines are now planted. Founded in 2008 in a valley between Fabriano and Camerino, its unique location enables the vines to be planted in a north-south orientation which is pretty unusual. This accounts for a sort of microclimate which allows the grapes to grow to their highest quality. And this wine boasts of a singular grape, verdicchio, for its taste and character. Harvested in late September to early October the wine is refined for six months in stainless steel tanks before bottling and then settles and rests for an additional two months.
In the bottle the wine, like other Verdicchio, does sport its characteristic greenish hue. Now, I have discussed this part before, but it is unusual to decant a white wine. This is an exception. Because of the color, this wine stands out in a clean, clear decanter. Placed under proper lighting and allowed to aerate the light will reflect not only green tones but also some red, yellow and gold highlights. So it is quite beautiful to behold. On the nose, some citrus is apparent but the real aroma is just clean. On the palate there are hints of melon and apple. Just enough sweetness to make it a summertime favorite, but with enough acidity to challenge a meal. Although it would compliment poultry and white fish very well, this wine is better served as an aperitif. Pair it with pecorino or pecorino romano cheese, olives and assorted dried meats and you have something special that will take up an entire afternoon. Slightly chilled, use some frozen green grapes instead of ice cubes, or red grapes for color contrast. This wine is truly a patio favorite.
Awards for this wine are many. Mundus Vini Biofach 2021: gold medal for Petrara ’19. Guide Vinibuoni d’Italia 2020: 4 stars at Petrara ’18. DWWA 2019:bronze medal for Petrara’18. The list goes on and is very impressive.
In all, this is an excellent wine for the coming summertime months. Served alone, with appetizers, afternoon snacks or light dinners, this wine will perform very well and will become a fast favorite.
Alcohol – 13%
Closure – natural cork
Price – about $15
My own personal rating – I would give this wine a rating of 8.75 grapes out of an unattainable 10.
(Taken from a song by Queen, a tribute to radio)
Remember the days when radio ruled the airwaves. Driving in the old Ford station wagon listening to AM radio as music and news came over it. Remember how dad always lowered it and you made it louder when you thought he wasn’t looking. Of course, that was when we, as kids, were allowed to sit in the front seat. Remember driving under a bridge or through a tunnel or, in the Bronx, under the elevated train tracks and the radio would cut out. Oh progress. Radio was king then, and free to boot. All the songs from the Top 40, all the DJ’s that we grew up with. Now, we have to pay for that privilege with Sirius Radio and the like. But, is it any better? Any more entertaining? Are today’s radio personalities as they are now known any more knowledgeable about the music? And how many of them are just reshuffled from their gigs at FM stations.
With all that in mind, here are just a few of the people I listened to as a kid. Any of you from the New York area will recognize them, and some will know them too because a few were heard across the country. So, put on your bobby socks and saddle shoes. Tease or grease up your hair and guys, hide that pack of Lucky Strikes in your t-shirt sleeve.
Murray the “K”
Murray Kaufman, his real name, was a DJ from the 1950’s through the 1970’s. Often referred to as “the fifth Beatle” during the early days of Beatlemania, his show was broadcast nightly on an AM station and he was probably the most popular and well known. He opened his show with his famous line, “This meeting of the swingin’ soiree is now in session.” He was the first to play longer cuts off albums instead of just the singles and also combined live in-studio interviews with such artists as Bob Dylan. Later in his career he produced Rock n’ Roll shows for TV which featured groups like The Ronettes, Drifters, Coasters, Dave Clark Five and others too numerous to mention. In 1966 he wrote the book “Murray the K Tells It Like It Is, Baby.” I could go on, but do some research on your own. This was a fascinating man, a pioneer and a trendsetter. He left us, a victim of cancer in 1982.
Robert Weston Smith was active from 1965 until his untimely death in 1995. His raspy voice and signature howl could be heard at times all across the country. Oddly enough, he enrolled in the National Academy of Broadcasting after giving up on his career of selling encyclopedias and Fuller Brushes door to door. In 1995 his book, “Wolfman Jack: Confessions of the Original Rock and Roll Animal” was released detailing his rise to fame. And what a rise it was from smuggling his tapes across the border into Mexico so his pre-recorded show could be broadcast to a wider audience, the transmitter there was more powerful than what was allowed here in the States, to outrunning Mexican bandits as he tried to cross back. He was featured on more than several radio stations during his career and also hosted “The Midnight Special” a tv show seen at midnight on Saturday nights. Really, if you are a music fan, you should read his book. It is a story of guts and of a man who was determined to get on the radio, even if he had to risk his life to do it. The Wolfman died suddenly of a heart attack in 1995. No replacement has been found.
“Cousin” Bruce Morrow
Bruce Meyerowitz was born in Brooklyn. His nickname of “cousin” was given to him by an old woman who once said to him, “Cousin, can you give me fifty cents to get home?” He gave it to her and the name stuck. After beginning his career in Bermuda, he moved on to New York City in 1959. His main competition was Murray the “K” but he did manage to hold his own on his station spinning Top 40 records. His show was heard nightly from 7:15 to 10:30 where would play all the “hits, all the time.” During his long career he not only worked at loads of AM and FM Stations, he also bought a few and carried his show on them. He also made many personal appearances at amusement parks and at Rock n’ Roll shows. He also is very active in charity work raising funds and awareness for children with emotional, mental and physical disabilities. His 1987 book, “Cousin Brucie: My Life in Rock N’ Roll Radio” is a must read.
So, there we have only three. Three kings of old time radio. My apologies to DJ’s like Scot Muni, Alan Freed and Allison Steele, the first female DJ. But they will be for a later story. Meanwhile, Here’s a blast from the past…
ANDREA BOCELLI’S TENOR RED WINE
Andrea Bocelli is one of the world’s most loved tenors. Born with congenital glaucoma, he has been completely blind since the young age of twelve. But he has not let that hamper him at all. He has lived a very full life recording, making live appearances charming and entertaining millions all over the world. And now, as they say, on with our show…
For nearly three centuries the Bocelli family has crafted fine wines from their estate in Lajatico, in the Tuscany Region of Italy where so many of the world’s best wines are produced. With vines that are better than seventy years old, the family has grown such varieties as Sangiovese, Colorino, Canaiolo and other grapes, and as recently as ten years ago they have begun to grow Cabernet. Today the estate’s top wines contain a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet.
These wines are a tribute to the history of the family in the region. Sparkling wines, one of their products bears the label of “Bocelli 1831,” kind of a catch all designation which includes the style, quality and beauty of the wine. Since 2011 the “Bocelli Selection” family of wines has been a partnership with other winemakers throughout the country with the idea of celebrating winemaking excellence for which Italy has been famous. The “Bocelli Family ” selection, also begun in 2011 is more of a tribute to Andrea’s grandfather, Alcide in the 1950’s, with the label being a throwback to that time when the vision was begun.
For our day we chose the Tenor Red. Serving it on Easter Sunday was no small task for this wine which was new to us. But like Andrea’s voice, it was smooth and clear with a wonderful finish. We did decant it for longer than usual, about 2 ½ hours. In the decanter it is a vibrant, deep red with highlights that sparkled in the dining room’s brightness. The aroma of black fruits, currants and plums was very noticeable. Pouring it into the glass was an experience as we joked that we could almost hear his voice as the glass filled. The blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Sangiovese is evenly distributed so there is almost a guarantee of a great drinking wine. And so it was. Full bodied with a clean finish and pleasant, earthy tannins. With appetizers of some dried meats and cheese the wine stood out and performed very well, meshing with the saltiness and texture of the meat. With dinner we paired this with a beef tenderloin, grilled over a high flame, with herbed carrots and my mashed potatoes (my younger son and my granddaughter say that I make the BEST mashed potatoes). Again, the wine was a perfect partner adding an aroma, a vision and a taste to our holy day meal.
This was a new wine for me. I was drawn to the very attractive label at first, but when I saw the name I knew that I had to try it. We are big fans of Mr. Bocelli and enjoy his concerts on television whenever we can. He has accomplished much in his lifetime and is by no means done. His music is beautiful and timeless, a pleasure to listen to. So too his wine. This is an excellent red wine, suitable for any formal or casual occasion and will enhance any gathering you may have. A rich, full bodied taste that is drinking very well now. Sit back, relax and enjoy this wine. Put some music on and experience one of life’s great joys as your senses feast.
Closure – Natural cork
Alcohol – 13.5%
Price – about $23
My own personal rating – I would rate this wine a very solid 9.5 grapes out of an impossible to attain 10.
SAN COSTANTINO PARPINELLO
“There is not in Italy what there is in Sardinia, nor in Sardinia what there is in Italy.”
Sardinia is an island which faces both the Tyrrhenean and the Balearic Seas, just about midway between Naples and Barcelona, and south of the Island of Corsica. It is the second largest island in the area, with only Sicily being larger, and is considered a semi-autonomous region of Italy where the Italian language dominates, but many of the people speak Sardinian, an ancient and largely forgotten language. Because of its location and terrain it is kind of like a mini continent with mountains, sandy beaches, rocky coasts and large expanses of uninhabited land.
The largest grown local grape here is the Cannonau, which is the local term for the Grenache grape. Long associated with Spain, this grape is now thought by many to have originated here on the island and brought to Spain later. The Parpinello Winery is on the cutting edge of technology, but don’t let that fool you. There is a vast amount of respect for tradition, for old-fashioned values and for a family atmosphere. Originally founded by Giampaolo Parpinello, a winemaker, he dedicated his life to this work. Now, together with his son Paolo, he has given the years of experience to create an organization and passed on his passion.
This wine is made entirely of the local grappa, the Cannonau, as I mentioned above. This in itself ensures a deeply colored, full-bodied red wine. It is a late ripening crop, best suited to hot and dry conditions and produces a lower acidity with medium alcohol and flavors of red fruits like raspberry and strawberry, along with some subtle floral notes. The winery itself is a genuine blend of technology and tradition. The family prides itself in knowing that through the years their methods and research have grown to produce one of the finest wines in the region. With vines in three different locations, all with a local climate, they have been able to uphold this tradition.
This wine in particular is beautiful to behold. The bottle is simple yet attractive enough to arouse curiosity. I do recommend a decanter for the wine because the aeration process for about two hours will add to the complexity. Also, the deep, ruby red color, achieved by only the finest of stones, is most welcoming. In the decanter it is difficult not to notice the aroma as it completely fills a room. Pouring the wine is in itself an experience. The color of the wine glistens as it goes into the glass. Again, an inviting aroma of red fruits is noticeable. On the palate it is rich, slightly acidic with a flavor that says quality. It is easy for me to use the words of other writers and describe the taste as slightly strawberry with a mix of blackberry. Maybe my palate is not so sophisticated though. To me, the taste is more of a ripe, mature grape, picked at the height of its life and painstakingly molded into a wine that satisfies. One sip and you will be completely impressed.
We had this wine to celebrate St Valentine’s Day. We shared a very thick filet mignon, grilled and lightly seasoned with potatoes and vegetable. This wine was a perfect accompaniment to that meal. I would also recommend it for some lavish game dishes as well as with stronger, aged cheeses. Once again, I have been fortunate enough to find a family that values tradition, that does what they do because they love what they do. And when you do that, you never work a day in your life.
As an aside, the winery is also open for tasting and has a beautiful bed and breakfast inn on the grounds. What better way to spend time. Wine, sunshine, good people and good food all on a romantic getaway island off the coast of Italy.
Closure – Natural cork
Alcohol – 14%
Price – about $21.
My personal rating – I would rate a very solid 9.5 grapes out of an unattainable 10.
BUONA FESTA di SAN GIUSEPPE
“We are born to love, we live to love, and we will die to love still more.” ~ Saint Joseph
Today, March 19, is generally recognized in the Catholic and Christian world as the feast day of Saint Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. Although little is known about this man his feast day is no small thing. He is the patron saint of workers and is a protector of the church. Due to the (unsubstantiated) belief that he died in the presence of Mary and Jesus, he is also patron to the sick.
As I said, little is known about him and there are very few mentions of him in the bible. Most references to him are usually just asides mentioning the carpenter, which was his profession. In the gospel according to Matthew Joseph is told by an angel to marry Mary and take her to Egypt to escape Herod’s persecution. Later, when Jesus is about twelve years old, Joseph is mentioned only because Jesus, while teaching in a temple, comments to his parents that He must be about His Father’s business. Really, from there Joseph is never mentioned again and Mary is considered to be a widow.
The feast of San Giuseppe is a major feast day in the Christian Faith and to Italians in particular. Although he was Jewish, he seems to have been adopted by us and venerated with a few other feast days as well, like May 1st, the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker. The day is commemorated by attending mass, wearing the color red and carrying blessed fava beans. This is especially true in Sicily, where he is a patron saint and credited with ending a severe drought which plagued the island and saving the fava bean crop which in turn saved many people from starving.
Now, of course the day is celebrated with food and wine. The traditional dinner is a little more special, a little more ornate than other weeknights, or in today’s case, Sunday. Foods often contain bread crumbs which represent sawdust since Joseph was a carpenter. One of the highlights are the cakes and desserts. Zeppoli and sfingi are most popular and traditional. Zeppoli are round, donut shaped pastries filled with a sweet custard. Sfingi, a favorite of mine, are more like a big cream puff pastry, filled with sweetened ricotta cheese.
This has always been a day that I look forward to. The family is together and it is just a little more special. The foods are great, as always and the pastries are scrumptious. So now, it is time to celebrate. And with my name being Joseph, I get an extra piece of cake!
“Clearly, what God wants above all is our will which we received as a free gift from God in creation and possess as though our own. When a man trains himself to acts of virtue, it is with the help of grace from God from whom all good things come that he does this. The will is what man has as his unique possession.” Saint Joseph
HAPPY SAINT PATRICK’S DAY
AAAAH. Tradition. The wearing of the green, parades, corned beef or ham and cabbage, potatoes and Irish Harp beer. So much tradition I can hardly stand it. But it’s all good, all fun and all steeped in history, if you can remember being taught that stuff.
The feast of Saint Patrick’s Day is a Christian tradition which celebrates the faith being brought to Ireland. Observed since the 17th century, it also celebrates the Irish people and culture. Widely considered a semi-holyday, it is held as a public holiday in The Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland as well as here in the New World in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Although little is known about St. Patrick himself, we do know that he was a Roman Missionary, believed born into a wealthy family. He was kidnapped by Irish raiders at the age of sixteen, brought to Gaelic Ireland where he worked as a shepherd and found God. Later, in a vision he was told to return home where he was to work with the pagans and convert them to Christianity. Legend has it that he drove all the snakes out of Ireland, although it was also widely accepted that snakes did not inhabit the region. Perhaps they meant a different kind of snake, the ones with two legs who walk upright. Tradition holds that he died on March 17th which is where we get the date to celebrate.
Now, some of this is history, some of it is lore. But all of it is kind of a tribute to civilization and to education. What better reason to celebrate? So go on. Wear the green and watch the parades on tv or in person. Celebrate history. Praise tradition. Enjoy yourself. That is the story of life.
“May you be in heaven an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.”