Posts Tagged ‘Dickens’



I spent the morning – during my walk to breakfast, at breakfast, while swimming and at lunch – running through my mind various self-justifying stories about what that particular day means to me. I was going to write them down here because I thought some of them were pretty good. But, I’ll save you that pleasure. What really interests me today is Samuel Beckett. You know Andre the Giant’s friend who was so obsessed with cricket, – that Sam Beckett. (Samuel Beckett used to drive André the Giant to school. All they talked about was cricket.)

Andre the Giant was a professional wrestler and actor who appeared in what is, in my opinion, the greatest movie ever made, “The Princess Bride.”


Contemplating the mystery and significance of Andre would take me more than one day so, instead, I concentrated on Sam.

Well, Sam wrote a lot of books and plays when he was not driving Andre around or watching cricket matches. One novel in particular always fascinated me. It was about someone deaf, dumb and blind, without arms and legs lying face down in a puddle of mud slowly slithering along until he bumps into something. This was all that the novel was about, all three hundred or so pages of it. I do not remember the name of the book. You can look it up.


Now, I know Beckett intended his story to explore solipsism (you can look that up too), a philosophy or view of life that fascinated him. But he was a storyteller and as I have pointed out previously one can never trust a storyteller, they always lie. The lies aside, what always interested me was that he was also wrong.



You see, even someone deaf, dumb and blind, without arms and legs lying face down in a puddle of mud slowly slithering along when he bumps into something is still a blood sack with a bunch of electrons floating around between neurons that have gathered from the environment various electrical and other forces, formed them into an image and then tells the blood sack what it is he is experiencing. Now, the deaf, dumb and blind someone without arms and legs lying face down in a puddle of mud slowly slithering along has no idea whether what he is being told is the truth or not. He may, actually, be floating through the air above a beautiful verdant landscape for all he knows. Something may be amiss among the neurons or they may just be playing with him. In fact, if he believes he is deaf, dumb and blind, without arms and legs lying face down in a puddle of mud slowly slithering along when he bumps into something, something is probably very wrong with his neurological machinery. Even if, in fact, he is deaf dumb and blind and slithering face down through a puddle of mud he may either panic and despair or laugh at the absurdity of it all. And, if the latter, he could then utter Reilly’s famous observation, “what a revolting development this is.”



Which brings me back to what this all means to me on this particular day. What it means to me and to you is that, if you know who Reilly is, then you are probably at least as old as I am, and you know, as I do, that our “Use by” date is rapidly approaching.


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Rossana Petrillo 4

Artist: Rossana Petrillo born in Campania in 1957. 

Petrillo may refer to: Petrillo (surname) Myrceugenia correifolia, evergreen shrub commonly referred to as “petrillo” Petrillo Music Shell, amphitheater in Chicago named after James Petrillo

One day while looking for inspiration about something to write in this blog, I thought it would be amusing to author a semi-autobiographical fable based upon some historical person bearing my family name, Petrillo. A cursory exploration of the internet revealed, as would be expected of an Italian-American surname, a number of criminals and minor mafia members.

My research also led me to review the execution records of several states in the Northeastern portion of the US which produced at least one Petrillo executed for murder.

It appears, from those records, that those states eventually ran out of Indians to execute or free black men (In the case of the black men, primarily for sleeping with white women which appeared to be a capital crime at that time.) So, starting in about 1860, the number of yearly executions not only increased markedly but the executioner moved on to a strong run of people with Italian surnames. This continued until about the middle of the Twentieth Century when blacks took over again (the Indians, I assume, all having been eliminated), not so much for just sleeping with white women but now for everything else as well, including even things they did not do. I am sure other sections of the country featured other minorities from time to time that similarly heard the executioners song.

There were also the notorious Petrillo brothers from Connecticut, tried, convicted and executed for a scheme of insuring individuals who they subsequently murdered to collect the insurance money.

Now all of these showed promise for a story or two. But sensitive as I am about the stereotypes of Italian-Americans, I continued my search in hopes of finding a more positive model to use.

I could only turn up three.

One was Sophia Petrillo who was played by Estelle Getty in “The Golden Girls” television series. Sophia was the Bea Arthur character’s mother. Unfortunately, she was a fictional character and anyway she was reputed to have burned down the retirement home before moving to Miami to live with her daughter and friends. (There also was an August Petrillo who, at the time the show was popular, was the racist mayor of Mount Vernon NY, a city I lived in briefly, but he was also not the role model I had in mind.)

Then there was James Caesar Petrillo, the head of the International Union of Musicians from the 1930s until the 60’s. There was a band shell in Chicago named for him. That had some promise. A story about a young musician and son of an immigrant who with the usual combination of guile and intimidation worked his way up to become one of the undisputed leaders in the American trade union movement and eventually played a well-publicized duet with then-President Harry S. Truman; James on his trumpet and the President on the piano, had a certain American success story ring to it.

There was also some guy named Petrillo from Pennsylvania who wrote a book called “The Ghost Towns of North Mountain.” I could see a reality series on the SciFi network coming out of it.

But for some reason that day, none of those stories really appealed to me.

Then I discovered that in the sixteenth or seventeenth century there was a famously pretty young male musician named Petrillo that was the plaything of the Prince of Tuscany, a Medici no less. Unfortunately, I don’t do costume dramas.

On the other hand, I thought I could possibly revise his story to make it more contemporary.

In that case, forgetting my temerity about stereotypes, the story I imagined, might go something like this:

Ferdinando, “Freddy Megs” Medici, the dissolute son of Vincent, “Vinnie the Hump” Medici a well-known Mafiosi, one day decided that he wanted to be a producer and manager of rock bands and using his father’s money started doing so.

Francis “Franny” Petrillo was the backup Bass guitarist of the band “Pepperoni Suicide” that was managed by Freddy Megs. Franny was the product of a series of abusive foster parent situations. He was also an exceptionally pretty boy and Freddy Megs fell for him, hard. They began an affair.

Since the homophobic mafioso leadership frowned on such things,  Freddy Megs kept his dalliance with Franny very secret. He also had very public affairs with women that convinced most of those that knew him that Megs was no finocchio.  Anyway, he was not yet a made man so something like this, if it did get out, could always be considered just a youthful indiscretion.

Freddy Megs promised Franny that one day he would have his own band.

Unbeknownst to Franny, Freddy Megs was also having an affair with a transsexual drummer in a punk grunge Dyke band called “The Bloody Rags,” also managed by Megs. The drummer’s name was Melanie.

When Franny found out about Melanie he became very jealous and decided to do away with her. He rigged up her drums to burst into flames when Melanie struck them in a certain way.

And so, at the concert where the Bloody Rags were performing, Melanie’s drums burst into flames on cue. Unfortunately for Franny, Melanie escaped without a scratch and the pyrotechnics were so well received by the audience that the Bloody Rags incorporated it into their act and as a result became famous.

Melanie and the band, now insanely popular, promptly hired a more successful manager then Megs and took off for a tour of Europe, leaving Megs pissed off and Franny temporarily happy.

Freddy Megs soon grew tired of the music business, sold off his bands, told Franny it was over between them and joined an artist community in Taos.

Franny distraught and hoping to punish Megs with guilt, then hung himself from a telephone pole by the E-string of his favorite guitar, right outside the door of Freddy Meg’s house.

Unbeknownst to Franny, Freddy Megs had already moved to New Mexico and had sold the house to Franny’s father, a mega-millionaire who had made his money as Bernie Madoff’s silent partner. Franny’s father spent his life making money and feeling guilty for abandoning Franny when he was an infant. He had recently tracked Franny down and was planning to reveal himself to his long-lost son.

His father, coming out of his house in the morning to meet with his lawyers because he was under indictment for his association with Madoff, seeing Franny hanging there promptly dies of a heart attack leaving all his money to Franny. Since Franny is already dead the money goes to the alternative beneficiary in the will, a non-profit dedicated to reprogramming gay artists.

Eat your heart out Charlie Dickens wherever you are.


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