The Italian-American Triumvirate: #2 – Country

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As mentioned last week, October is Italian-American Heritage Month. Not only do we take a day (either the original October 12 or the second Monday) to celebrate Christopher Columbus, the Italian that most influenced America, but, like other ethnic groups, we spend the entire month honoring those who immigrated to the United States centuries after the first Italian discovered a brand new world.

This is the second in a series of columns on “the Big Three,” the three institutions that, though to some extent describe all Americans, speak especially to the cultural heritage of Italian-Americans.

Recall the meaning of “Italian-American.” It represents an acknowledgment that you are Continue Reading “The Italian-American Triumvirate: #2 – Country”

Ode To The Son Of A Bricklayer

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You, like everyone else, entered this world naked and exposed. You had nothing more than basic instincts, your very essence still tethered to your mother.

From that moment, however, upon that very solid foundation, a life was built. It blossomed into a life beyond compare, beyond the dreams of your parents, perhaps even beyond what you could imagine once you were able to imagine.

And it was all because you were the son of a bricklayer.

A man erecting the foundation for a new building recently said, “There aren’t many Continue Reading “Ode To The Son Of A Bricklayer”

So Long, Hal. We Hardly Knew Ye…

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The signs were ominous.

As I pulled into the familiar parking spot, I couldn’t help but notice the unbroken blanket of fresh fallen snow. No one had parked here. In fact, save for a long pair of footprints making a path in the snow to the door, there was no sign of life.

I glanced up at the storefront windows to see if the lights inside were on. But the blinds shuttered the windows completely, barring any spying eyes from the outside.

On one hand, the daily hours remained posted in their usual spot. On the other hand, there was neither a “We’re Closed” sign or a “We’re Open” sign.

That was strange.

I told my father to wait in the warm car and that I’d check out the situation. I got out of Continue Reading “So Long, Hal. We Hardly Knew Ye…”

Fandemonium: Passing the Generational Torch

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I can’t understate how many times people asked me the following question in the past week: “Chris, did you get tickets to the playoff game?”

For those of you who didn’t go to St. Catherine’s Church when people still went to church, the Carosa family has a certain reputation. Each Sunday – football season or not – one or more of us (usually more of us) stood in line for communion resplendent in official and unofficial Bills attire.

Those were our Sunday clothes. It became such a tradition that, on those rare occasions (usually in the summer) when our garments didn’t sport a Bills logo, people would notice.

This “worship” of the Buffalo Bills began long ago. My father, however, was too young to remember the original Buffalo Bills.

Incidentally, did you know the first version of the Buffalo Bills appeared in the All-America Continue Reading “Fandemonium: Passing the Generational Torch”

My Grandfather’s Garage

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More than a half century ago, at the dead end of a not quite rural road, a garage was built. It was a plain but sturdy garage. Made of concrete block. With a solid concrete floor. And a peaked roof high enough to form a spacious second floor. Perfect for storing planks, loose building materials, and a few other odds and ends that existed in that limbo somewhere between trash and treasure.

It was my grandfather’s garage. My father and his father built it the way you’d expect bricklayers to build something. More masonry, less wood. They used concrete block because it was less expensive than brick. It also took less time and work to build with Continue Reading “My Grandfather’s Garage”

Open House Tip for Elementary School Parents (Part II): How to Reduce the Odds Your Child Will Be Bullied in High School (and Middle School)

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The Secret Behind Silent Success

There’s a joke that folks like to tell at various self-help conferences. It’s usually in the inspirational key-note speech. Two guys are out camping. One guy brings his fastest running shoes. The other guy brings heavy rugged hiking boots.

The boot guy asks the sneaker guy why he’s wearing sneakers. The sneaker guy says, “In case we meet a bear.”

The boot guy looks perplexed. “You’ll never be able to run faster than a bear,” he says.

“Don’t have to,” says the sneaker guy matter-of-factly, “I just have to run faster than you.”

If you haven’t read Part I of this two-part series (“A Surprise Gambit Leads to Victory and Yet Another Surprise – This Time for the Victor,” Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, September 12, 2019), you should before continuing. In this Part II, I’ll break down some of Continue Reading “Open House Tip for Elementary School Parents (Part II): How to Reduce the Odds Your Child Will Be Bullied in High School (and Middle School)”

Open House Tip for Elementary School Parents (Part I): How to Reduce the Odds Your Child Will Be Bullied in High School (and Middle School)

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A Surprise Gambit Leads to Victory and Yet Another Surprise – This Time for the Victor

It was the summer between second and third grade when it happened. We were visiting my parents’ friends.

They were a nice couple. About the same age as my parents. They had a couple of boys around the age of my younger brother Kenny and me.

They had a nice house. It had a covered open porch in the back. Beyond this was an expansive backyard. I remember it being much larger than our backyard. But maybe not. Things always seem a lot bigger when you’re small.

As the adults had a pleasant visit sipping cocktails and chatting on the porch that warm summer night, their boys did what little boys usually do. Chased each other in the spacious backyard. Yelled about who knows what. In addition, and this shouldn’t surprise you, the Continue Reading “Open House Tip for Elementary School Parents (Part I): How to Reduce the Odds Your Child Will Be Bullied in High School (and Middle School)”

There’s Something Pleasantly Relaxing About a Steady Summer Rain

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What is it about a steady summer rain that so soothes the soul?

It’s a lazy summer Saturday. Tiny droplets gently pitter-patter on the skylight in the family room. Too soft to be called a “drumbeat,” it’s a beat nonetheless. A stable beat. A mesmerizing beat.

A beat that has you closing your eyes and relaxing. You snuggle a bit as you sink into the comfortably cozy couch cushions. It’s a reclining couch, triggered by a small button strategically placed within easy reach of your left arm. An electric whir compliments the soft thud of the continuing wet beat overhead as you lean back into your leisurely morning.

What is it about a steady summer rain that so soothes the soul?

Continue Reading “There’s Something Pleasantly Relaxing About a Steady Summer Rain”

A Salute to My Greatest (and Most Favorite) Teacher

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What’s the difference between a mentor and a teacher? Dictionary enthusiasts will quickly point out a teacher imparts broad knowledge while mentors provide advice and guidance. Teachers offer lessons you can apply generally to all aspects of life. Mentors show us how to live a very specific aspect of our lives. Teachers educate. Mentors demonstrate.

These are very universal terms. Certainly, teachers give advice and mentors instruct. Since I’ve had great teachers and great mentors (not to mention great coaches, a wholly different creature), I want to make the distinction as stark as possible.

By their very nature, it’s likely you experienced your greatest teacher as a young child. There’s a number of good reasons for this. Youth represents your most formative – your most impressionable – years. Elementary school teachers therefore occupy the greatest Continue Reading “A Salute to My Greatest (and Most Favorite) Teacher”

Party Like It’s 1959 – The Beautiful Dance of Strategy and Tactics

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The gray mid-day sky lit up with a brilliant blinding flash. Moments later came a sharp crackle. Its echo reverberated as if it came from inside a deep canyon.

Thus, were the thunderstorms of my youth. Short. Spectacular. And always worth pulling up a lawn chair and watching through the open garage door. It was only a one-car garage, but the space proved wide enough to fit me, my brother, and my father.

You know the kind of lawn chairs I’m talking about. They’re classic. The thin aluminum piping folded for easy and convenient storage. When unfolded you’d sit on its plastic webbing that cushioned your bottom for comfort. Kenny and I would often struggle to avoid being left with the one with the loosest webbing.

Best of all, these classic lawn chairs could get wet. This was often a risk while watching those wandering summer storms. Sometimes a gust of wind would blow the pouring rain beneath the slight eave of roof covering the garage. When that happened with sudden Continue Reading “Party Like It’s 1959 – The Beautiful Dance of Strategy and Tactics”