Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Off topic

I am back in New York after a five-day sojourn in Manchester, Vermont, with my mom attending the Greater Manchester and the Mountains Chamber Music Workshop. Despite my mother's wracking cough (just a cold, the doctor assures her), we had a good time playing music and shopping. (Manchester is an outlet center, as well as a very pretty place.) I had an especially good time because I got to play a Beethoven piano quartet, the first movement of the Debussy piano trio in G, and two movements of the Ravel quartet, all with excellent groups and excellent coaches (who, in two of the groups, actually played with us). Heaven!

We were staying at the Inn at Manchester, a lovely place. Here's their "celebration barn," where various among us performed on the last night of the workshop, an evening that included Mozart on the harmonica and Delibes' "flower duet" arranged for flute and musical saw.

The lilacs were blooming all over and powerfully scenting the air. That is one of the things I truly miss about the East Coast.

Danny arrived from California last night and tomorrow we head for Italy. Which is when this blog will get down to business.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Ciao da Vermont!

Dot and I have arrived in Vermont for our chamber music workshop. En route we stopped for lunch and I had her take this photo--an idea I stole from a clever family member. (He didn't give me permission to use the one of him.)

I am huddled in the empty bar of the sweet little inn where we're staying, hoping no one hears me yawping in bad Italian at my DuoLingo app.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Imparando italiano

(That is, learning Italian.)

Once we embarked on this Italian adventure, it occurred to several of us that we needed to bestir ourselves to learn at least some rudimentary Italian. Luckily my Italophile friend Valerie recommended DuoLingo to me, and soon the whole family was using it. It is a free on-line language learning system that plays like a game, and I love it!

You can use it to learn other languages, including not only English, Spanish, French, and German, but Portuguese, Dutch, Russian, Swedish, Turkish, Polish, Hebrew, Vietnamese, Welsh, Swahili, and Romanian--and that is far from a complete list of DuoLingo's offerings. In addition, they're currently developing courses in Czech, Hindi, Japanese, Yiddish,  and five other languages, including High Valyrian (which I've never heard of before).

Not only is the program free and fun to use, but it seems rather noble in its aspirations.

At the same time, I took in-person Italian lessons from Nando Gonzaga, whom I heartily recommend. Much as I love DuoLingo, I also really enjoyed sitting across from an actual flesh-and-blood Italian speaker who was able to push me further along the learning curve with all kinds of games, charts, and other aids. His blog has a number of entertaining entries for those interested in "la bella lingua," including the song that gave this blog its name.

Of course I won't really know how well any of this is working until we get to Italy and try to actually speak and understand Italian in situ. But I am hopeful. At least I know how to say such handy DuoLingo phrases as "Lei ha troppi fidanzati" (She has too many boyfriends) and "Quasi tutte le mucche sono morte" (Almost all the cows are dead).   

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Italian enough?

My claim to an Italian identity is pretty slim. My father's father was born in Italy in 1892, but emigrated to the United States nine years later with his family. He changed his name from Pasquale di Carlo to Charles DeCarlo and married an Irish-American girl (to the horror of both families). I don't remember ever hearing him speak Italian or talk about where he came from, which might only mean that I wasn't paying much attention.

However, since my grandfather didn't become a naturalized U.S. citizen until after my father was born, my father was, per Italian law, an Italian, even if he didn't know it. And so, therefore, am I, and so are my children. At least that's what we are hoping to convince the Italian authorities.

A few months ago, in the midst of our family hoo-ha about this Italian venture, I coincidentally made contact with a cousin whose existence was news to me, the granddaughter of one of my grandfather's five sisters (whom I also didn't know about). Sometimes Facebook really is amazing. She sent me this photograph of my great-grandmother, Concetta.

From things my father said, I gather that Concetta was the ambitious one in the family, the one who pushed her husband to bring her and her children halfway across the world to a strange new country and a whole new life. I see that in her face in this photo.

They settled in the outskirts of Pittsburgh. After her husband became disabled and couldn't work, she opened one of the first movie theaters in town, or so my dad said, The theater showed whatever footage of marching soldiers and whooping cavalry she could get hold of, spliced together by her young son, my grandfather, and billed as exciting scenes from the Italian campaign in Ethiopia of some years before. My grandfather told my dad that the theater attracted lots of customers, who cheered on the Italian heroes (even the ones wearing cowboy hats and shooting Indians). But the audience wouldn't leave after the show, staying to watch the same movies over and over. Before too long the theater went bust.

I have no idea how true any of this really is. My father's family were storytellers, a trait that has been passed down, and I often discover that a shapely narrative I've enjoyed telling and retelling is more or less a figment of my imagination. But I've always loved this story about the movie theater, so I'm happy to keep spreading it around.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The itinerary

I've made it to New York, the first leg of this rather ambitious trip. Here, in outline, is the plan:
May 9-16: Staying with my mom on the Upper West Side, visiting sibs and friends in the city
May 17-21: Music workshop in Manchester VT with Dot (my mom).
May 22: Danny arrives in NY; we're staying at my brother Dean's place on W 81st while he and his wife are off in Normandy
May 24: Danny and I fly to Milan.

I realize I'm actually a bit vague on the dates from this point on. We're spending a week or so visiting friends in a small town outside of Parma, eating and trying to learn some more Italian, then visiting another friend in Orvieto.

On June 9 we meet up with our kids in Rome and head to Campobasso, capital of Molise, the province where they and I will be applying to be recognized as Italian (dual) citizens. We'll spend the next two weeks in an as-yet-to-be-named village there. We're hoping it will be Cantalupo ("cantaloupe"), the town where my grandfather was raised before he came to the States at age 9, but we won't know for sure until closer to the day.

On June 25, citizenship recognition hopefully accomplished, the family disperses and Danny and I head to the Adriatic coast, including Bari, Brindisi, and Lecce, in search of warm weather and low-price real estate. I am extremely dubious about getting involved with the latter, but maybe Danny will win me over.

And so we begin

My plan is to record my family's trip to our ancestral homeland (or, more correctly, to one of them) so that all my friends and relations can come along with us. Or, more likely, dip in now and then as they like.

I am mostly packed--amazing how much can fit into a suitcase--and ready to leave in a few hours for New York and the first leg of this two-month sojourn.

Off topic

I am back in New York after a five-day sojourn in Manchester, Vermont, with my mom attending the Greater Manchester and the Mountains Chambe...