“Jackson Sterling is crawling”

March 21st, 2013 by John Morris

This is not “stop the presses” news considering my grandson is nine months old. – where does it go?  It is newsworthy to the people who love him.

My daughter, Beth sent videos of the little guy’s new stage, and as I view them, they bring broad smiles to me and my heart.

It started me thinking about his next landmarks and how they’ll impact his parents.

This list is intended to be incomplete.


1st landmark: learning to crawl.

Up to this point, babies, like Jackson, have been where you left them. But it presents a fresh fear for new parents: keeping your baby from crawling into danger. This new challenge grows greater as the crawling talents blossom. As landmarks goes, it’s an easy learning test for parents.


2nd landmark: learning to walk

However crawling changed parents’ lives, walking will now pump up the intensity even more. Life is no longer about keeping them corralled; it’s controlling their wanderings. The fear of falling is ever-present and parents start thinking of safety measures like wrapping their tykes in bubble wrap. The upside of this development is your bundles of joy no longer needs to be carried everywhere.


3rd landmark: learning to talk

This landmark is one where parents experience a real loss of control. Oh sure, we’re the ones who teach them words and how to use them but our progeny can take this new skill and make us laugh or cringe. Parents learn their child is simply filled with questions needing answers. There will be times when the parents long for the old days when the baby could only cry or laugh.


4th landmark: learning to learn.

It’s been a long time since the talking landmark, and it’s time for the first true separation test for most children and parents. By this, I mean school. The parents, who watched over every developmental stage of their child, now share the learning stages with professionals*. As children learn to read, their minds form thoughts. They ask more questions and challenge their parents to hit the mark each time. This also marks the first time someone else is grading your bundle of joy.


5th landmark: learning to drive

Here’s when parents take a major leap of faith. They now hope their hard work and astute parenting have yielded a responsible young adult. This landmark give their one-time baby new abilities to travel alone and discover things on their own. Parents’ worries are well founded at this point. It’s a usually a shaky hand that hands the car keys to a sixteen year old. The hand belongs to someone who not just worries about their child but every other motorist out there.


* if you’re home schooling, this landmark may be pushed into the college years.





What do you pick up?

March 10th, 2013 by John Morris


Three days a week I walk to work. This way I’ll get some exercise which a man my age needs. There’s a hidden plus to walking when you do a lot of it.

As I walk, I find useful stuff on the road. These roadside treasures causes me wonder about the circumstances that separated them from their old owners. Sure there’s a lot of debris there like one half of a pair of gloves or broken bungee cords.Items like this I just leave there sentenced to being swept up by one of those bristle bearing, borough trucks.

Last week I wondered about the things I’ll alway pick up. One for me are pens. Why? I don’t really know; maybe it’s an holdover from school days when I always needed one but may not have had one. I pick them up and store them away for another day.

It made me wonder what other odd things others pick up on their journeys though life.

I think we’ll all agree everyone will pick up money or jewelry. Most men will pick up tools. I having trouble imagine what the average woman will stoop to pick up if found on the road.

This is where you, the reader comes in. What will you almost always pick up if you find it? I sure this information will not change the world’s axis.

Other exercises would be what unusual things have you found while walking? Or do you have an interesting story about finding something?

Again, not earth shattering stuff here.

Have you eaten?

March 5th, 2013 by John Morris

“Have you eaten?” is how the Chinese people  say hello much like our “How are you?”. Such is the importance of food in their culture. They blend eating with socializing.

In many countries, meals are the social events of the day. Europeans assemble together  at midday to eat their main meal and then take hours to enjoy them. At night, they meet with friends and go pubbing. In short, their lives are unending “greet & eat” events.

No so much in America. In your short term memory, how have you dined recently? In front of the TV?  Alone? Detached if not alone?

How about large family gatherings? Certainly there are meals involved, but when do we do them? Weddings and funerals mostly.

When my Italian family had too many funerals where we regret not getting together, we took action. We now meet every two months to break bread at a restaurant. All are welcomed. We call this outing “Cugini Night Out”. There is no agenda. We keep it simple so no one is weighed down with the work. And it has worked to date. Is it perfect? No! Is it worth it? Yes!

Using the same principle, my Veteran chapter called Los Gourmanderos stages near-guerrilla dining parties. We select a promising location and put out the word. Again anyone can attend and contribute. These are also really good times.

Usually what is needed to make these events realities is just one person. That “volunteer” sends out the emails; collects the names and books the event. Not much work, but someone must do it.

There are mostly positive results to be had from a small amount of effort.

It’s an effort worth doing.




Facebook & Twitter are today’s time wasting drugs.

March 2nd, 2013 by John Morris

I am an old guy who likes to keep pace with others using a computer. My first computer (KayPro 16e) was purchased in 1985. At the time, it was cutting edge, and I was in the vanguard. I computerized my sign business’ office but at a cost. I had to learn how to use this new and slightly scary machine. The argument goes like this: is the time saved more or less than the time spent?

By learning how to use a computer, I segued into a sweet gig writing a monthly column for a national magazine. Seems there was this throbbing need to computerize sign companies’ office functions, and the average sign painter was still struggling with the push button phone. Following this, I believed I could be a consultant and make serious money. That didn’t happen.

Since those days, I’ve traveled to the beat of the internet. My son, Adam made this blog a birthday gift, and I found my way back to writing.

But then, I joined Twitter and FaceBook, and they lulled me into a non-productive, time wasting zombie march.

By checking my most recent blogs, I see I’ve gone from one per month to about 3/year. Why? Because I’m frittering away my writing skills on 140 keystrokes (Twitter), and my thoughts on a media (FaceBook) that exploits my postings to make it as easy for advertisers to find me as my friends.

Here’s where I compare the social mediums with drugs, and I’ll use no less a luminary than Borsht Belt comic, Buddy Hackett.

He told TV’s Mike Douglas he smoked pot every day for ten years. At the end of this time, he realized he had not improved his comedy act by as much as one new joke. After he put away the cannabis, he recovered his ambition and drive. His talent and career exploded.

It is for the same reason I’m cutting way back on FaceBook/Twitter in order to do more productive writing. These blogs will be more regular, and I plan to edit the book I finished over two years ago.

Sorry it took me so long.





One of the really good guys.

November 26th, 2012 by John Morris

When I met Morris Green, I sensed he was a special person. Time proved me right. He had just read my article about who is eligible to join the Vietnam Veterans of America and wanted in. From the moment he joined us, he applied himself fully even serving as chapter President twice.

Morris Green and I became fast friends and even promoted the nickname of the “Morris Brothers” but it didn’t catch on. To his Veteran friends, he was “Moe”. Others called him “Morrie”. Such a man could easily shoulder two nicknames. At a mens-only Italian dinner at Saint Anthony’s Lodge, he quipped he felt trapped in a Godfather movie scene. We pointed out a Godfather’s movie is no place for someone named Moe Green.

I preceded him as President and courted him to succeed me. We reached an agreement: he would take the job, and  I would do a “Polar Bear Plunge” with him. Fair enough, I thought. At our April induction banquet, I sat with him to plan the plunge event. I said, “How about we do it a few months? Say August?” His answer did not please me. “January!? I repeated. It’s really cold then.” He flashed his patented elfin smile at me and said, “Hence the term ‘Polar Bear Plunge””. What did I get myself into?

On a cold January Sunday, we journeyed to Rehoboth Beach’s annual Polar Bear Plunge. He briefed me with small tips gleaned from years of such fool hearty ventures. Above all, he said once the cannons fire to be sure to run into the ocean with eyes on those who are running from the ocean. Oh my, what fresh new hell.

At the beach, I found a huddling mob of strangely dressed “Polar Bears”. Moe and I moved our gear to a small opening to wait out the shivering time and to watch the impromptu parades. It was here were Moe put his plan into action. He had a small banner bearing the phrase “We Support Our Troops”. He went to groups of young women and asked them to pose with the banner, and he would put the photos on the Internet for our troops in Afghanistan. Not all said yes but enough did. They played along well and posed playfully in their bathing suits.

When the photo fun was done, we steeled ourselves for the plunge ahead. Like clockwork, the cannons roared; people cheered and started running into the icy cold Atlantic. Moe’s prediction of wimps running back from the ocean was spot on. The problem was the inrushing crowd was so dense, they blocked my view. The big guys ahead of me would serve to avoid an outgoing cub and then I would get sucker blocked by them. The game was on. We on-rushers would playfully push them from side to side. It lasted only a few seconds until my crowd reached the feared ocean waves.

Moe kept driving me on. “Don’t think about the water; just keep running”, he yelled. Then he gave me the command, “You must get your hair wet”. He sprinted ahead and dove into a wave. He surfaced with the biggest beam humanly possible. I wouldn’t allow his challenge to go unaccepted and did my own dive into the glacier water. It was COLD. A cold that should stop human organs in place. The water felt heavy like jello and not water. A thick presence causing me to struggle and slowing me down.

Just when I thought the Plunge pledge was satisfied, Moe waved me onward again. He shouted about getting our picture taken by the Navy Seal on patrol at the shark net line. At this point, I imagined it couldn’t get any colder, and I wasn’t looking forward to immersing from the water and into the morning wind.

Moe and I made it out to the Seal who agreed to the photo.He complimented us on our tenacity where most others had failed.

The way back was made easier by the waves but complicated by the less venturious Bears acting as barriers to the beach head. Once on dry land, I found the formerly cold air had taken on a much harsher attitude. The plan was to dry off and redress ASAP. Moe hadn’t not mislead me to date so I followed all his directions. He said there are no places to change out of our wet bathing suits here but maybe at a more inland location. We had already spent an hour shivering so hanging around did not appeal.

We did the walk back to Moe’s car and drove out of the area. Moe made a wrong turn and was doubling back when a VFW post came to our view. “We’re home, Moe”, I said. He gave me that “damn right” look. I was surprised it was opened so early in the morning, but they were having a $3. pancake breakfast day.

We flashed our IDs to the bartender and ordered drinks & chance tickets. Moe and I took turns changing in the Mens room . It was about 40 more minutes before I felt normal again. The bar was circled by guys our age and experiences. During the rest of the morning, we chatted easily with them and accepted their barbs out how really stupid it is to go into the ocean in January.

Early morning on Veterans Day, Morris Green’s battle with Parkinson’s Disease ended. PD came at him with a vicious force, but he went all-in fighting it.

When I lose a good friend like Moe, I have a sharper appreciation about what he meant to me. I also thank God for bringing him my way.


Japan V China

November 4th, 2012 by John Morris

There is a small, uninhabited island between China and Japan, and these two nations are at loggerheads over ownership. The island’s most appealing qualities are location and the discovery of oil.

Of course, this quarrel has history. Here’s some background: Japan v China island dispute

My take on what I read is, if either country acts to secure their claim, America is obligated by treaty to side with Japan against China. This will bring about a brain breaking decision by our government’s leaders. If we stand with Japan, China can then exercise its right as our nation’s banker to call in our loans. This leverage alone should tip the balance towards them. But this flip says to Japan and the rest of the world that America doesn’t honor its agreements even those made when China was part of the Red Menace.

On November 6, somebody will be elected our President for the next four years. I’m certain whoever wins will either face this knotty decision head on or just kick it down the road for the next guy/gal.

Some day, our President must decide which is more important: keeping our word to an ally or not thrashing our economy.





Italy trip 2.11 Salina and the journey home

October 16th, 2012 by John Morris

September 30, 2012

On my last day in Italy, I returned early to the marina shopping area for breakfast – another sweetbread and tea.

I had a plan to find my missing bags of gifts. I knew I had them at my last stop yesterday: the Internet spot. My hopes were pinned on them being there I.It would open around 10:00 a.m. So I took advantage of the time offered me to make a second round of purchases. I bought different items just in case I found the missing bags. Again the merchants were helpful. I think I did a better job this time around. I had just enough time to check out of the hotel.

As I was gathering my stuff at the hotel, I heard a woman’s loud voice but didn’t understand a word except “Senore”. I looked outside and saw the owner’s wife holding up my lost bags. I didn’t care what else she was saying. She handed me the bags, and we both beamed big smiles. I had left them at their place last night when I was looking for my room. Thanks God for having these nice folks looking out for me.

With all my stuff in tow, I returned to the dock area to finish my time in Salina and to enjoy a nearly ideal day. Since it was Sunday, the activities were more subdued. I looked to the west and saw a striking cathedral. The road there looked easy enough to maneuver, but two things held me back: I had my bags, and I was not dressed properly for church. Yeah, it matters in Italy.

The vendors in the square and the mingling tourists kept thing interesting enough. There were many Europeans vacationing on this island. One day in Santa Marina Salina gives enough of a quality experience. You can do everything there unless you want an adventure like diving or mountain climbing. I was ready to get back home, but I’ll always remember Salina, Sicily fondly.

The hydrofoil arrived, and we boarded. I tried to capture another good seat but not this time. People from all of the islands are storming back to Milazzo on the few remaining vessels.

Back in Milazzo, I found the trip to the train station was more than I could walk. I went to the first cab in line and made a deal for 12 euros to the train station. I got the typical white knuckle trip cabbies here are so good at providing.

The train ride from Milazzo to Messina was one to try my patience. The train was an hour late. I first boarded an empty car but was followed by a conductor. He told me I was on the wrong car and to follow him quickly. He lead me to a jam packed car. My only place to stand was at the door between two cars. I wasn’t too concerned since the journey will be short. Before long, I learned the conductor enjoyed pushing the door – and me – to get through. After the second time, I decided to educate him. As he approached the door, I’d open it toward the car to avoid hitting me. When he returned, I did the same thing.

One more time, he caught me unaware and pushed the door on me. I did my version of flipping out. I shoved it back on him denying him access. He finally relented, and I opened the door towards him. I said, “The door swings two ways.” I held the door for him and smiled when he left, but that was the last time I saw this guy. Hope I didn’t scare him off.

I departed the train gratefully at Messina and realized I had not only developed a bad attitude but risked losing all the mellow I had banked while in Italy. I would not let this happen. After breathing exercises at the nearby Victor Emmanuel memorial, I got it back. Even a later bad scrape with the natives at the snack bar didn’t bring me down again. I realized I was ready to get back home. My last nerve was too vulnerable to access.

The trains back to Rome airport brought me to the next way station of my journey without notice. I had time to find that elusive good meal before the plane. I wandered around their idea of a food court. It was all the same stuff: paninis and pizza. No, I wanted a meal. I knew in a week I’d be jonesing for one of these snack food items, but I had reached my limit. Then I saw it. Long glass counters with real food displayed. I asked the counter clerk how I could buy that food. She pointed me to the counters. I stood there for 10 minutes trying to engage the women working there. One was at least kind enough to shoo me away. I never did find out who got that food, but there was a conspiracy to keep me from it.

I boarded the plane and settled in for the ten hour flight. My seat had a malfunctioning DVD player. I asked for a change of seats, but there were none left in economy class. Okay, you can’t break me.

After touchdown in Philadelphia, I had to deal with an unusually large number of travelers going through customs. The officials did a stellar job keeping us moving. They even kept their sunny manners.

My remaining traveling went well or I was too numb to notice from nearly 35 hours of being on the road. I befriended a German businessman who was trying to get to a Walnut Street hotel. I told him to stick with me. I guided him to the entrance to Walnut Street and wished him well.

All that was left was the train back to Downingtown. The cars were packed full, but a man begrudgingly moved his computer from a seat so I could us it. Afterward, he’d aggressively shake his paper and avoided my eye contact.

The conductor saw my Medicare card and asked for $1. After I gave him a twenty, he asked if I had anything smaller. I said, “ I have a euro.” He stayed professional and said, “Can’t spend that here.”

My plan was to call Lyn from the train station phone, but I found a empty space where it had once been. I walked home to my waiting wife.

It was good to be home and filled with new memories.

Next blog: My summary

Italy trip 2.10 Messina and Salina

October 15th, 2012 by John Morris

After the train ride from Palermo to Messina, it was a short walk to the ferry docks. My plans would have me in Salina around 3:00 p.m. Please let me find a good restaurant at mid-morning. That didn’t happen. I grabbed yet another panini with vino at a snack bar.

Messina got a bad review from The Lonely Planet. It was described as void of any interesting areas for those on holiday and bit too commercial. That may be true, but I didn’t see it. It has large piazzas where people gather. Some are eating; some are playing and some are just talking. There is a snack shack nearby and enough pigeons to establish it as a park. The people are friendly and helped me understand my bad Italian is really bad Sicilian. They’d make me say their words three times to be sure I got it. I didn’t.

With the morning fading, I stopped at an umbrelloni for the usual vino rosso and light snack. The waiter was straight out of central booking. He was 60ish, elegant and costumed to a tee. He took my order in one sweeping motion and blended into the cafe. He fetched a huge wine glass of the region’s best red. I watched him as he ply his trade. He controlled the area with a deft touch. No one wanted for anything for long with him on patrol. Strangers would ask for directions, and he’d provide them kindly. I spent an hour watching the activities around the hotel. The time passed by comfortably.

Launch time drew near, and I returned to the docks. I didn’t follow the crowd descending into the boat’s lower reaches to be near the bar. Instead I went to the bow area and found the best seat on the boat: front row with a huge window. Three hours of skipping along a cobalt blue sea and Santa Marina Salina, the former fishing village framed the horizon.

With transportation done, finding a room was next. I walked to the dock’s central gathering area and started reading signs. In a short time, a short, rotund man approached me and said something I thought was about a taxi. No, I said. I want an albergo (hotel). That was what he was offering me. I made one condition; I must be able to walk from the room back to the dock. “Si, he said. 15 minutoes by promenade”, but he rather drive me there in his macchina (car). Nope, I insisted I want to walk there. After one round of “addiamo”, we were off.

The 15 minute promenade was uphill followed by up mountain. The last leg of the walk was steep enough to make me wonder if stopping might cause me to fall backwards. I then noticed this round, little man was not having any problems with the walk while I was sucking wind.

At last ,we arrived at his property. He gave me the tour and insisted I see the view from my balcony. He was right to do so. The Mediterrian Sea framed the nearby island of Lipari. With an about face, I had expansive view of the mountain created by an ancient volcano. All this along with a fairly nice room for a mere 25 euros.

   The last leg of the walk.

The walk back to the dock area took less than five minutes since it was all down hill. I joined the loungers near the sea with my glass of the native wine called Malvasia, Young men were kicking a soccer ball around and doing it quite well. I asked about fotbol on the island and was told there were no fields. My question struck a humorous vein. Maybe because the island is a volcanic rock mountain.

I was advised to shop today because many of the stores are closed Sundays. I threw myself into the task since I was out of time for such things. Lucky for me the stores had really cool stuff and people to help. My last stop was the local Internet spot to get Lyn caught up on my adventures.

I decided to stow my purchases back at the hotel and then find a restaurant. Back at the hotel, I couldn’t remember which room was mine. I walked past the ones with keys and tried mine in two locks that didn’t open anything. I had made conversation with the neighbors earlier so I sought them out. We went to the owner’s home and learned which one was my room, and he led me to it. Grazie, amico.

Time to dine. I changed into my version of evening wear and then walked down the first hill to a charming outdoor restaurant. It was 8:15 p.m., and there was no one eating. I asked the stylishly dressed waiter for a table. “No, senore. Must have reservation.”, he said. I again looked at all the empty table, and decided it’s his loss.

Near the dock area, I followed a sign for the ’nni Lausta restaurant, but it led me into another damn shack shop. Wait one; painted on the wall was a sign pointing upstairs to the restaurant. I’ve learned the hard-to-find restaurant are often good.

At the top was a young lady kind enough to seat me. I ordered what would be my last good meal in Italy. First course: couscous with pine nuts; second course: penne in an amazing light seafood sauce and third course: steamed local fish. I finished off with a yoghurt gelato and tea. It was memorable. If you go to Salina, be sure to eat here. www.isolasalina.com

I returned to the narrow street area and had my last drink of the day. The stores closed their doors as couples strolled in the mild night air. All that was missing was some concertina music. Too soon it was time to go back to the hotel.

At the hotel, I packed for tomorrow’s 10:00 a.m. check out. A search of the room did not uncover where I had put the bags of gifts. No need to panic yet. I decided to retrace my steps tomorrow, and hope to find them there.

Worry was something I learned was usually a waste of time.


Italy visit 2.9 Palermo, Sicily

October 14th, 2012 by John Morris

Traveling by train from Italy to Sicily means crossing the strait separating them. I was told this may be done with barges, and I looked forward to this experience. The trip from Rome to Palermo is twelve hours and skirts the Mediterranean Sea.

At about hour seven, we hit the Strait of Messina separating Italy and Sicily.  Our train stopped in what looked like an underground station. After about two hours, our train rolled again, and we were in Sicily. I neither saw nor felt anything like being transported by barge. Oh well.

After the usual unsatisfing sleep that comes with traveling, I watched the young morning come alive.

Palermo was another three hours by train. During this time, I applied my thoughts to a second stop in Sicily, and I found it.  A volcanic island in the Aeolian archipelago named Salina (Sa lee na). It’s spelled the same as wife, Lyn’s Kansas hometown of Salina but out there they say Sa lie na. I admit this was a real reach, but the more I read about this isle, the more it sounded ideal. I also reasoned I could find that soccer uniform for Jackson with Salina on it.

It would involve a lot of travel time but what the heck. My plans now were to stay in Palermo for one day and then ride back to Messina for the hydrofoil ferry to Salina. I’d stay in Salina for a day and then start the arduous journey to PCO airport and America.

At the Palermo station, I made a decision to stay near the station so I could easily make the next train to Messina tomorrow. Finding a hotel was no problem even if overpriced at 72 euros. One hot shower later, I’m on the mean streets of Palermo. I took a compass reading when I left and settled in for the long haul.

Palermo is a storied city described as having many historical sites, i.e., cathedrals, memorials. It was as advertised. I found an intersection with towering cathedrals on all four corners called Quattro Canti. They were a portal to the religious section of Palermo. I made plans to return tonight to visit more sites.

To avoid getting really lost, my walking pattern was to make right turns every 15 minutes. In Palermo, this meant trips through the food district, upscale shopping centers, commercial areas and finally the dredges of the city along some nasty river. After all this walking, I had circled back to the train station.

In search of a decent Sicilian meal, I returned to Quattro Canti and beyond. I imagined, if I walked around enough, I’d see the other sites and get a meal. My giddy side came out at the Palermo Cathedral. It was awesome! This site took up an entire square block. The structures were highly ornate and seemed to drip with history. After running back and forth around the block, I had taken a large number of photos many of which were deleted after I calmed down. If they would have left me inside, I may still be there.

In this region, there was also a thriving art community. The narrow streets were difficult to maneuver with the wares lining them.  I was drawn into one store by the ornate details on such items as Vespa scooters, dog carts and wagon wheels. The artist covered every visible inch with some colorful design. The artist/owner introduced himself. I told him I was traveling far too light to make an art purchase. No problem he said; I could support his work by having my picture taken in one of those “insert head here” displays for a small donation. Four euros later, this is what I got.

   How do I look?

I walked the artsy area for a while and found a charming restaurant in what looked like an alleyway. The waiter offered me a table and menu. He then disappeared into his laptop. It is easy to order a meal in Sicily; just go for the seafood choices. On a brilliant Palermo night, I had an awesome three course meal with a glass of Nero D’Avolas I didn’t know it then, but this would be the next to last good meal I’d have in Italy.

Palermo at night disguises the grim of its streets with colorful arches making everything look nearly storybook-like. 

After another umbrelloni stop, I returned to the hotel to pack for Messina and Salina.


Italy visit 2.8 Travel day Giulianova to Roma

October 13th, 2012 by John Morris

Our gang of seven breakfasted at the Hotel Don Juan before splitting in three different directions. I would train to Palermo, Sicily; Anthony & Iris are returning to America and Bernie, JoJo, Barb & Michael had Florence and Venice in their sites.

At breakfast, we talked about the previous days and our immediate plans. I was quizzed about my reasons to visit Sicily. I explained it was a region of Italy I had not yet visited, and it sounded interesting. Where in Sicily? Probably Palermo but maybe elsewhere.

I said my goodbyes and bon voyages to them. I would need to check out of the La Vela Albergo and catch the train back to Rome. Francesco was doing his day job: medical doctor so I had no chance to say my good-byes2 to him.

This left time to visit my cousin, Bernadine’s cousin, Massimo at his local gelateria. The directions lead me to the heart of the tourist section in Giulianova. He had one of two great gelaterias on opposite corners. They were the best ones in town and competitors much like Geno’s and Pat’s in South Philly.

It was late morning, but they were still serving up a lot of that good gelato. I asked the gal behind the counter if Massimo was here. She said Massimo is her father and right there. I waited for the chance to talk with this man. With the usual question, “Parla englise?” came his response, “No” and he pointed back to his daughter. I slipped into pidgin Italgish complete with body gestures. “Cugina Bernadine Mascherino en America?’ He shot back, “Si, me cugina e Bernadine Mascherino en America.”  My next clumsy attempt came out, “Bernadine says ‘Hello’; Bernadine e me cugina”. He tapped both our chest and said, “Bernadine cugina” He got the message and the greeting part. I circled in for the requested photo. “No problem”, came back in clear English. We found a spot near his sign, and  I got the money shot Berni asked for. Massimo then went all Italian on me and tried to feed me. “Sono un diabettico” let him know of my sensitivity to sugars. He face showed sadness. I sensed it would be better to let him return to his customers, and we had a warm parting. This was a fun check off of the “ to do” list and anything for Bernadine.



Buying the train ticket became a battle of wills with the ticket agent. He said he spoke no English which is fair since I am in his country. I asked for the ticket to Roma Termini. He took my 14 euros and handed me a ticket to Roma Timburtina. I knew from the ride to Giulianova that this station is one short of Roma Termini. When I challenged him on this, he said, in English, this ticket will take me to my final destination. His expressive gestures told me he was done with me and to move along. More on this later.

My experience with Anna schooled me well. I was able to switch trains at Pescaro with no problems. The scenery going back to Rome was just a repeat of the trip up. I spent most of the time reading about Sicily. These readings presented Sicily as a more amped up version of Italy. I’m sure I’ll find plenty things of interest once there.

Back to the train ride, when I arrived at Roma Timburtina, I swam my way through an endless stream of commuters going the other way. I found a ticket agent and showed my ticket. Could I catch a train to Roma Termini with this? “No”, he said. My mind flashed back to the clerk at Giulianova. He knew full well I’d be one station short with the ticket he sold me. What a jerk!

It was a 1.5 Euro subway ride to Termini, and I was there in plenty of time to catch the Palermo nightly express. I became some Korean guys traveling friend which seemed fair to me. I could help a fellow traveller since I had had so much help.

In Rome, I settled in to wait out the four hours until the train leaves. Enough time to eat and walk around the area again.

Back at the station I found a spot with other travelers and away from the beggars and other ne’er do wells. Note: for safety sake, do not wait alone. Also spend this time making friends for the trip.

The train was finally available for boarding, and I found a friendly porter to guide me to my assigned room. He slid the door open and pointed to my rack. Later I would learn he put me in the wrong section. Traveling alone in a country where I don’t speak the language always has these little hiccups. The conductor took care of the paperwork and assumed the blame for the mixup.

Not everyone who works for Trenitalia are jerks.


The old boy writing this blog wears many hats: Vietnam Veteran, husband & father, salesman and techno-dude. After my service with the Army Security Agency, I operated a sign company for nineteen years, The sign industry changed after CAD/CAM machines made the task easy enough for the non-talented. I sold my company and never looked back.

Life has granted me a life partner better than I deserve. My wife, Lyn is a transplanted Kansas gal. Her bliss is teaching kindergarten and first grade.

I am the most proud of my children. My son, Adam lives an international life teaching English and living in Sozhou, China. He is married to one of life's truly lovely women, Yuri Kim. My daughter, Beth grew up in a small town and found her way in life means working and living in major cities like Chicago and New York. She and her life partner, Julie Sterling married in LaJolla, California in 2010.

I like getting the newest gadgets, but also I like to use things until they are useless, i.e., my last personal car was an 88 Honda Prelude Si.

I wrote a Vietnam Veteran newsletter for nine years. During this journey, I learned I like to write. It is a harmless exercise that rewards honest effort while tolerating failure gracefully. I been away from it for too long. My son gave me the blog, and it was a lifeline back to writing.

My best advice is to show the world what you can do but to accept only your opinion of who and what you are.

Update: In August 2008, my job became one of the half-million jobs that went away that month. I took the following year getting the home ready for my official retirement.

In October 2009, I took a part-time job as a saleman at the vaulted Maxwell's Hardware.

On November 29, 2011, I reached my 66th birthday, and I officially started Social Security. I intend to stay with Maxwell's as long as I can contribute.