Sneak Peek: Our Grandparents

If you are partly “Italian-American” (as I am), and that ancestry stems from you being a product of immigrants who arrived in the U.S. between about 1870-1914 (as I am), it’s likely you grew up with a complicated relationship with Italy.

My maternal great-grandparents were all Italian immigrants. My grandparents were born in the U.S. Some in my mother’s U.S.-born generation were reared to be utterly indifferent to Italy.

Free Stock Photo: Italian flag in blue sky.
Free Stock Photo: Italian flag in blue sky.

Perhaps World War II had an impact. Benito Mussolini had been a difficult, divisive subject in families like mine pre-war. However, after he joined the war in 1940, and particularly after he declared war on the U.S. in late 1941, he became America’s enemy who needed to be smashed and that was that.

Yesterday I realized it has now been over a month since I’ve shared any of the Distances rough draft here. I worked more on this part yesterday also, and thought as I finished that it merited a “sneak peek.” It all “happens” in “James’s” mind shortly after he has landed in Italy for the first time and is being chauffeured to a Rome hotel along with three rather familiar women.

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Hunted By The Internet

Many years ago, I was lucky enough to glimpse – from a vehicle, a good distance away – a snoozing lion in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. It was a sunny mid-morning, he was partly hidden by high grass, and I recall him being utterly indifferent to all of the attention from the ever-increasing numbers of parked cars and tour vehicles desperate to see him. I also remember the guide saying it was unusual to see one so close to a road at that time of day.

The idea of shooting him? The 19th century is long gone. Frederick Selous and Theodore Roosevelt are dead nearly a hundred years now.

For some, though, a fascination with “big-game hunting” remains:

Screen capture of the BBC web site.
Screen capture of the BBC web site.

Exile was also once a common form of punishment. The ancient Athenians used it. So did ancient Rome. More recently, Britain and other European countries put “outlaws” on ships and packed them off to Australia or “the New World.”

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U.S. Citizen Unnatural Deaths Around The World

My fellow Americans, as we know the summer travel season is now well underway:

Screen capture of the U.S. State Department web site.
Screen capture of the U.S. State Department web site.

Turns out Americans die abroad much the same ways as at home. Most non-natural deaths are not a consequence of terrorism or war. Other than in certain places, they are due mostly to accidents and suicides.

At that State Department page, using the drop down menu you may choose a month/year period combination and country. After a click you’ll discover how, and precisely where, Americans there died of non-natural causes between 2002 and 2014. Isn’t our government helpful?

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A Short Stories’ “Sabbatical”?

I spent a good part of yesterday with new characters “Brad” and “Clémence,” as well as with a couple of “old timers,” and filling in additional details and description in several chapters. In the process, I dropped in a couple of thousand more words at least. I became so immersed in it all, I lost track of the time.

The afternoon flew by. As I finished up, I realized again just how unwilling I am to let go of “my friends” quite yet. I’m not “done” with them by any means.

I ended up again pondering what could follow immediately after Distances. I know there will be a fourth novel eventually, and I already know its very general contours. But I’m now pretty drained mentally from writing these first three, and I suspect I will need something of a “sabbatical” to recharge.

Free Stock Photo: A pile of antique books.
Free Stock Photo: A pile of antique books.

I had been mulling over the idea of taking “six months” post-Distances and declaring, “Eh, that’ll do for now.” It seemed reasonable. After all, three novels of nearly 100,000 words each over three years is nothing to sneeze at.

By comparison, my HarperCollins published uncle has written eight novels since the early 1980s. Uh, not that I’m comparing myself to him! Even if I am there, uh…. a little bit. ;-)

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Fear Of Flying

My first flight was on the Eastern shuttle between New York’s LaGuardia Airport and Washington, D.C. I was age 9, and traveling with my grandparents. We three made the short flight to visit for a week with my uncle, aunt and cousins, who were then living in northern Virginia.

I kept that Eastern shuttle’s ticket stub for something approaching three decades after. Do you think I can find it now? Of course I can’t! (I have flown on so many airlines that are now long out of business. The list is extensive: Eastern, Pan Am, TWA, Tower Air, Air Inter. There may be others, but I can’t immediately remember them.)

You may be similar in first flying young. Others start flying much later:

Screen capture of Yahoo.
Screen capture of Yahoo.

And yet others appear likely NEVER to fly. I recall my parents not joining us for that Washington, D.C. trip. The reason given was my then three year old sister and not wanting to take her along.

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“Are you a typical American?”

Last weekend, I searched British TV in vain for a Humphrey Bogart film. I was simply in the mood, and was depressed when I couldn’t find one. Naturally, I informed (as one does nowadays) everyone on the planet who happened to be reading Twitter.

And a Twitter friend came to the rescue. He pointed out this is on YouTube. Here’s 1953’s Beat The Devil in its entirety:

It is in the public domain, so you may watch it guilt free. Bogart’s production company held the copyright, but allowed it to lapse. It’s his only film that’s outside copyright.

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Refreshing The Background

The other day, I changed my About.me background photo for the first time in a while:

Screen capture of About.me
Screen capture of About.me

I like that site. It’s sort of an “artistic” version of LinkedIn, and I find it’s used by some interesting people. I may know you courtesy of it. [Waves.]

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For Instant Happy Woman?

While cat sitting for friends last month, I’d noticed this coaster on their dining room table. I photographed it because, being a man, I’m not entirely sure how to take this: image

And it made me chuckle. We saw them again last night; they have just moved house temporarily until they move permanently to Cambridge in August. So we got to see their “interim” place in Bath, and she had that coaster on their dining room table once more.

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Alfred The Great Was Here (In The Vicinity Someplace)

I’ve been up here, near the Westbury White Horse, a bunch of times. However, I’d never taken any photos of this, but finally did yesterday. So how about some English medievalism/ Anglo-Saxon romantic legend for a Wednesday morning:

[Photo by me, 2015.]
[Photo by me, 2015.]
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“Because you are born on a farm….”

Emerging from “Valérie’s” car onto her parents’ Paris driveway….

Excerpt from
Excerpt from “Frontiers,” on the iPad app for Kindle. Click to expand.

I thought I’d share that bit from Frontiers. (You may be interested in the *note at the bottom of this post, about a line in that above.) “It” is “1995.” Not that long ago.

A Paris view. [Very old photo, by me, 1994. Look familiar? It's on the back cover of Passports.]
A Paris view. [Very old photo, by me, 1994. Look familiar? It’s on the back cover of Passports.]

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