Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Death’

On May 8, 2017, at about 4 PM my mom passed away peacefully in her sleep. She led a life of great adversity from the moment she was born until the last few years or her life. She met every challenge with implacable determination and good humor never giving an inch to despair and defeat. Even the Grim Reaper eventually gave up and had to sneak up on her while she slept.

IMG_2793

At 84 she took up painting and became quite accomplished at it.

Ruth Galanter wrote the following poem to mark her passing:

Teresa Petrillo departed this earth
Leaving grief and relief among those she gave birth.

To watch someone aging is hard while you do it;
In some ways as hard as yourself going through it.

So much as you’ll miss her, remember she’s free
And keep all her stories in your memory.

Teresa was tough, as her tough life required
To raise her three children. She should be admired!

And so as she passes from this life to next
Let’s think of her life in its broader context:

An immigrant child when few folks had phones,
She lived to see spying conducted by drones!

She had strong opinions, as all of you know,
And it’s likely that she chose the time she would go.

And so as she passes, remember her strength,
Tell others her story, but not at great length,

Be glad that you knew her because there’s no other
Relationship quite like a child with its mother.

Be sure as she’s watching from heaven above
That she sees you with pride and, above all, with love.

We all who knew and loved her will miss her greatly.
IMG_2796_2

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

tumblr_mp7sps2PRe1srvmuoo1_1280

Although I am traveling, I still manage to put in time reading novels. Recently I read Arturo Perez-Reverte’s latest. Perez-Reverte whose taut but lush adventure and mystery novels generally take place in Spain during its long sad decline from world empire until the old order was finally snuffed out by the armies of Napoleon. His series of books, featuring the melancholy but indomitable soldier and peerless swordsman Captain Alatriste, are classics.

The Siege, as its name implies, takes place during the interminable multi-year siege of Cadiz where the armies of Napoleon and his brother Joseph, the imposed King of Spain, had chased the government of the tattered empire and its inconsistent allies, the English. Cadiz, however still had access to the sea and many of its merchants, smugglers and privateers flourished even while the bombs daily rained down on parts of the city. The plot revolves around the attempts by the brutal and corrupt Chief of Police to solve a series of exceedingly vicious murders.

Unfortunately, Perez-Reverte introduces a sub-plot, a bodice ripper straight out of Danielle Steele — A romance between the dashing but crude and dangerous, curly-haired, handsome and muscular captain of a privateer, Pepe Lupo (Joe Wolf) and his employer, the refined, learned, capable, aristocratic, accomplished and almost beautiful owner of one of the city’s premier shipping companies, Lolita Palma. Lolita, virginal from to tip of her leather boots to the top of her lace mantilla, unfortunately, is 32 years old and unmarried. In the Cadiz of that time, at 32, she hovered between the twilight of fuckable and the onset spinsterhood. Perez-Reverte, damn him, shamelessly introduces a scene where Joe confronts Lolita at an elegant ball, causing her to snap open her fan and rapidly cool down the rising warmth of a blush.

“At least,” I thought, “he does not have the poor woman wet her drawers.” Alas, not more than a couple of dozen pages later, as Joe Wolf’s cutter heads off on another venture in legalized piracy, the still virginal Lolita, standing behind the crenellations of the tower above her Palacio and staring at the corsair’s ship as it disappears over the horizon, does just that. Arturo Perez-Reverte, you should be ashamed of yourself

Nevertheless,
Pookie says “check it out.”

“…all things have their allotted time in the suicidal order of things— in life, and in its inexorable outcome, death.”
Perez-Reverte, Arturo. The Siege: A Novel (p. 358). Random House Publishing Group.

Note: Reading this book makes me wonder if getting involved in the shithole that was Spain at that time was not as great a mistake for Napoleon as his march into Russia. It is usually the inability of empires to know their bounds that bring them to ruin. I wonder if that was the genius of Augustus Caesar; to recognize there were limits to the expansion of empire beyond the need to establish secure boundaries. It probably enabled the Roman Empire to survive for another 1000 years until the thugs of the Fourth Crusade finally put it out of its misery.

Read Full Post »

images

Another weekend crept in. For the retired, it promised little different from any other day of the week. On Sunday, however, as I was swimming laps, a beautiful iridescent dragonfly flew by. During its beguilingly aerobatic performance, it dipped too low and splashed into the pool. After making my turn, I swam by again and spotted it entrapped in its aqueous meniscus struggling to rise from the water and failing. I took a few more strokes before I suddenly stopped like I had been netted. A feeling of need to save the dragonfly engulfed me.

“Why?” I thought. “If it were just a fly, I would let it die and a mosquito I would try to kill even before it hit the water.” I felt caught as Tuesday Next would say, “within a dense cloud of moral relativism (Fforde).” Nonetheless, a belief that I had to do something for this particular creature overwhelmed any internal debate on the nature of ethics I may have contemplated. So I cupped it in my hands and brought it to the edge of the pool and placed it where I hoped it could recover.

As I watched it struggle to dry its wings and rise, other thoughts struck me. “It would probably die here too weakened by its dunking; a death perhaps worse than if had it had died in the water. So, what had I accomplished except to prolong its agony?” “What about the possibility one of the many birds in the area would swoop down on it in its weakened state and devour it?” “So,” I inquired of myself and generations of existential and moral philosophers, “why did I do what I did in the first place?” Suddenly everything began to go dim as I found myself standing on the edge of the abyss staring into a solipsistic nightmare.

I jumped out of the pool and rushed home where I buried myself under the covers in the hope they would muffle the screams of dying dragonflies, long dead metaphysicians and legions of moral philosophers.

Read Full Post »

 

It was biopsy day.  Dick drove me to the hospital where I was admitted, placed in the preparation room, laid on a gurney, stuck with needles and subjected to various tests and questionnaires designed to protect the hospital from liability. About four hours or so I lay on that gurney waiting to be taken to the room where the procedure would be performed. During this time, I fell asleep for about three of those hours. When I awoke I noticed that a mob of nurses and technicians milling about. None of the other patients on gurneys like mine had been moved. I asked a nurse what was going on. She said she could only tell me what she was instructed to say which was the doctors were busy on other procedures and would get to us as soon as they can.

By this response I guessed that either the doctor was drunk, stoned or otherwise incapacitated — or the doctor had made a grievous error on another patient and the poor soul was lying on a gurney like a clam oozing out of its broken shell — or, Muslim terrorists had taken over the lobby of the hospital and were methodically moving down the halls shooting everything in sight.

About an hour later the nurse announced she would now take me to the treatment room. She wheeled my gurney from the room and about 20 feet down the hall where she parked me against the wall. I remained there about another hour watching gurneys pass by containing people lying on them in various degrees of wretchedness. Finally, I was wheeled into the room where I was again prodded with needles and subjected to more tests and hooked up to the only thing that day I looked forward to, the narcotics that I was told would be administered just before the procedure began.

Now, I have had needles stuck into my chest before, one for two days while they pumped back up my collapsed lung. I have also had other biopsies, as polyps and bits of ugly skin were snipped off my body for examination. But, for some reason, this time, I was more anxious than I had ever been. Perhaps, given my age and the inevitable approach of the Big Sleep, I was more appreciative of the short span of human life — or, perhaps it was just another bout of hypochondria.

As the table I laid on slid into the machines giant donut hole, I followed the instructions to breathe in, hold my breath and exhale — once, twice, three times. There was a long time between breaths and an even longer time after the third one. Suddenly the doctor stood over me. I could tell he was the doctor because he was young and there was a hint of sadness in his eyes.

“We can’t find the nodule,” he said.

“Say what,” I responded.

“We can’t find the nodule,” he repeated. “It’s disappeared. We’ll set up another CT scan in six months or so and see if it returns.” And, with that he disappeared. I got up. After the various needles and machines were detached from my body and with a sad glance at the bag or narcotics hanging on its hook, I dressed and went home.

I am embarrassed and humiliated.  It’s all Obama’s fault.

Read Full Post »

 

Sometime in the late 60’s and continuing for a decade the Swedish husband and wife team of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö embarked on an ambitious scheme to write one mystery book a rear for ten years. The books were to be interconnected in a series called “The Story of Crime.”

Ruth turned me on to the series. Where most modern mystery stories over the past forty years generally feature a brilliant if somewhat odd sleuth who solves the mystery usually by either clever deduction or by the impact of his or her particular psychosis (for example by beating people up or getting drunk), these are stories about Swedish police detectives who solve cases using the routine that are the lot of most public employees. They get bored, sick with colds and have bad marriages. The criminals more often than not are sympathetic, driven to murder by social circumstances they cannot control and now and then they even get away with it.

Despite being over 40 years old, the novels grapple with issues pertinent today such as the militarization of policing, the social desperation that drives people to crime and the impact of replacing personal interaction between the police and the public with impersonal violence that begets even more violence resulting in the collapse of the morale of both.

“More and more often one was obliged to initiate an investigation by trying to sort out what the police had been up to. Not infrequently this proved harder than clearing up the actual case.”
Sjowall, Maj; Wahloo.The Locked Room: A Martin Beck Police Mystery (8).

My two favorite books in the series are The Laughing Policeman and The Abominable man.

Pookie says, “check them out.”

Read Full Post »

I am reading two books at the same time — one chapter from one and then one from the other. I guess you can consider both of them sf/fantasy novels. One, written by CJ Cherryh, leans more towards swords and sorcery science fiction with an underlay of the Welsh legends of Morgaine who later morphed into Morgan le Fey of King Arthur and Merlin fame
255px-Morgan_spencer_stanhope_3

Morgan le Fay
— the other, by China Mieville, more a steampunk story about conflicts over language in a world far in the future.
embassytownart FINAL_1

Despite the vast differences between the stories and the styles of their authors, they have begun to intertwine in my mind into the semblance of a third story — Morgaine, her deadly (Vorpal?) sword Changeling in hand, rides madly across the cosmos toward that lonely, small, strange, steampunk planet at the edge of the universe where humans have taught the hugely competent and hugely huge indigenous people how to lie and then addict them like crack freaks to the sound of someone talking shit to them. Then these native lexemic junkies start killing each other and everything else until they are persuaded to enter a complex linguistic twelve-step program. Meanwhile, in Eddy Poe’s world, the Raven still cries “Nevermore Lenore.”

I cannot wait to get back to Bangkok where the bizarre is real life, the government an indolent autocracy, everyone lies and the sex is twenty dollars retail.

Read Full Post »

“One Punch” Sammy Santoro was one of the terrors of my youth as well as one of its dark heroes. (He beat the shit out of Richie Santaliquito twice and he and his gang was about to do the same to me and a friend for knowing Richie until “Chickie” Muscalino interceded on our behalf.) I have written about him HERE before (For some reason, it is my most popular post worldwide.) The last I had heard of him, he had an operation going using a “little person” to break into homes. I always wondered what had happened to him. For some reason, I thought he had died in the electric chair. Recently by chance, I found the following in a 1972 appellate court opinion in New York

“The indictment charged that Santoro and Tortora, along with Joseph Chiaverini, Gene Genaro and Nicholas Rattenni, lent money to Joseph Formiglia although they had reasonable grounds to believe that the money would be used by Formiglia to make extortionate loans. It further charged that they had used extortionate means to collect the money loaned to Formiglia.”

“The scheme began in November 1969 when Formiglia, a jeweler, borrowed $400 from Santoro, promising to pay $40 a week interest until the $400 principal was repaid. Shortly after this first loan was made Formiglia wanted additional money, but did not want to borrow it under his own name. Thus he conceived the idea of borrowing from Santoro on the pretext that he himself was relending the money at usurious rates. Beginning in early December 1969, Santoro made additional loans to Formiglia, amounting to approximately $11,000 by the middle of February 1970. Tortora frequently was present when these loans were made. Ratteni was present at two of the transactions.”

“By late February 1970, Santoro suspected that Formiglia was not actually relending the money. Chiaverini was delegated to go with Formiglia on his next collection date to visit his “customers.” When Formiglia protested that his customers might not like this arrangement, Santoro said, ‘We’ll go around and collect the f____’ money or we’ll break their heads if they don’t pay us.’”

“Formiglia feigned sickness on the collection date, but this merely confirmed Santoro’s suspicions that Formiglia’s customers were nonexistent and that the “loans” were only a pretense to cover Formiglia’s own borrowing. Santoro met with Formiglia and threatened to split Formiglia’s tongue or put a ‘bullet through [his] head’ unless the money was repaid.”

“A few days later Tortora went to the jewelry store where Formiglia worked and told him, ‘My man, you are in a lot of trouble . . . what are you going to do about these f______ loans.’ No arrangements for repayment were made, however. Later that day Santoro telephoned Formiglia, who said that he was going out of town, whereupon Santoro replied, ‘Have a good time because it’s your last trip.’ The next week Tortora went to Formiglia’s store and told him to show up at a meeting at Genaro’s fish market regarding repayment of the loans or Tortora would ‘drag [him] up by [his] head.’”

“Frightened by these threats, Formiglia called the Yonkers Sheriff’s office and was instructed to telephone Tortora and delay the meeting one day. The Sheriff’s office then recorded the conversation.”

“Wearing a hidden tape recorder supplied by the Sheriff’s office, Formiglia met with Tortora the following day at the fish market. Tortora accused Formiglia of juggling the loans and suggested that to repay the loans Formiglia might have to rob a store. Tortora then telephoned Santoro and put Formiglia on the line. Santoro said that if Formiglia did not pay he would break Formiglia’s wife’s head and burn down his house. Tortora then told Formiglia that he better work out a deal to repay the money.”

“The next day Formiglia arranged to go to Santoro’s house, ostensibly to repay the loans. He brought with him money supplied by the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office. After Formiglia had been in the house a short while, investigators from the District Attorney’s Office entered and arrested Santoro with his hands on the money. Tortora was later arrested by the FBI.”

Sammy skipped out on the trial and disappeared. I could find no further record of him.

Note: Nicholas Rattenni or as he was also known, “Cockeyed Nick” was the head of the mob in Westchester County and a Capo in the Genovese family. He owned a garbage company and controlled refuse collection in the County as well as the construction trades. I used to caddy for him and some of his button men at a local golf club (They tipped well, so carrying their golf bags became a highly competitive and political competition among the caddies.). A few of the button men were friends of my family. Most of the button men I knew had fled to Florida and other places before the events described in the opinion took place.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: