One Heart’s Fortune

2

November 30, 2018, Prescott-

This evening, with a fairly peaceful week of work behind me, and a resolution to the dilemma, that I described in the last post, having been put into motion, I attended the opening night of a play, “Hannah’s Heart”, about a 10-year-old girl in Depression-era Prescott, her family, and two benefactors.

Like many families in the 1930’s, the Meadows’ were a brood led by a swaggering father, who was, ironically, recovering from an injury, and a stoic mother, focused on what she could do to make up for the loss of her husband’s productivity.  The ebb in their fortunes led to older daughter Hannah Grace, stepping up to make tree ornaments, by the sale of which she could provide gifts for her family.

The flow that this effort provided helped reverse the family’s low fortune, at least temporarily.  She was aided in her work by two angelic figures, an elderly woman who lived alone and who was befriended by the Meadows’ and a robust man from Texas, who took on the work, around the family farm, that Mr. Meadows was unable to do.  Both of them mentored Hannah, encouraging her to follow her heart.

I enjoy this sort of down-to-earth, human interest story.  It mirrors the many tales I’ve heard over the years, from both sides of my large extended family, as well as from my departed in-laws.  The format of the play has an elderly Hannah Grace, in the present day, telling her Millennial granddaughter about the events of that long-ago Christmas.  It behooves all present-day youth to learn what they can of that time in history, from those who lived it if possible, so as to be better able to handle similar situations, which could very well arise, in their own lifetimes.

 

“Ibiza is Nice, This Time of Year”

2

July 6, 2018- 

(Part 5 , the Conclusion, of the Antonio Ribeiro saga)

He was dehydrated and delusional, when the baggage handlers took the heavy duffel bag off the plane, at El Prat.  The Catalonians, as Tony had suspected, were no dummies and the surveillance captain wasted no time, in opening the bag.

Sensing his quarry was an American, Joan Caro addressed him in English:  “I have heard of many scams by people wanting to visit our fair city, sir, but you have managed a first.  Consider yourself a guest of the Spanish government.  Your prison ward bed awaits.”

Groggy, Antonio Ribeiro answered with a moan.  “Don’t worry, senor”, the Captain replied, matter-of-factly, “the hospital treats prisoners of the King with great dignity”.

Arturo, back in Montreal, had anticipated just this scenario.  He had contacted his inside man, in the Guardia Civil, several hours before.  Giving the airport surveillance crew a fig leaf, Inigo Batista presented himself as a hospital security guard, the moment the ambulance arrived, with a hapless, dehydrated Antonio Ribeiro, handcuffed to a gurney.

“Gracias, gentes. Lo tomaré desde aquí “, the bogus guard intoned.  Inigo then took it from there.  He called his driver, Rigo, and within minutes, Tony found himself in the back seat of a Peugeot, sipping lightly flavoured water.
“First, we get you some nice Catalonian clothes, bud. Then, you get a good day’s rest.”, Inigo fairly chirped.

“You mean, I don’t gotta go to no hospital?”, Tony rasped.

“No, you don’t go to a hospital, man.  You go to L’Hospitalet.”

“What’s a l’hospitalet?”

“Not what.  Where!  L’Hospitalet is a big city, safe, like a rabbit warren.  We are going to my brother’s house,  There, you will rest for five days, while I get further instructions from our friend, Toro.”

“Dios, mio!  You baggage handlers have quite a system!”, Tony gapsed.   Inigo merely chuckled, content with his real identity remaining a secret.

Miguel Batista proved a generous host, and by day 3, Antonio Ribeiro was feeling that this L’Hospitalet would make a fabulous new home.  He had never tasted wines so delectable, and Catalonian cuisine would make him fat as a casa, in no time.

Day 5 arrived, though, and with it came five days’ worth of clothing, a nice big suitcase and a Spanish passport.  His new name,  Atilano Rubirosa, was printed in bold lettering, on the inside cover.  It was good for ten years.   His Catalonian driver’s license was also good for a decade.  “Say the name, ten times, Senor Rubirosa! It is important to get this right”, Inigo said, emphatically.  Tony concurred, and let his alias roll off his tongue, ten times.  “Perfecto!  Welcome home, or should I say, welcome aboard!”, Miguel effused, as the group walked up a ramp to the upper deck of the Batista brothers’ yacht.

“Where to, now?, a bemused Tony queried.

“Why, we are headed to the Balearics, el meu amic! Ibiza is nice, this time of year.”

“From what I heard, Ibiza is nice, any time of year- all them hot Scandinavian girls.”

“Relax, amic.  The girls come from many countries, including Sweden.  You will, as it happens, meet many of them- in your capacity as a security guard at Neptuno.”

“Today, I begin ten years in paraiso!’, Tony rejoiced.

“With an option to renew”, Inigo responded.

Just then, the policeman’s phone rang.
“Hey, where is that prisoner? I entrusted him to your watch!!”, a furious Joan Caro sputtered.

“He was uncooperative.  I’m afraid we had to resort to drastic measures, Senor Capitan.  Please consider the case closed“, Officer Inigo Caro hissed at his counterpart from El Prat.

Senor and Senora Atilano Rubirosa have three children now.  Two of them are blonde, like their Danish-born mother.

The Snapping Towel

2

May 20, 2018, Prescott-

Here is a little story that is tied to Towel Week, an Instagram series by a friend who is also here.  I can’t write very freely on IG, which is more about photos with short captions.  So:

Five boys hung out, the last day of school, and decided to make PE class REALLY count.  They soaked a towel, and ran around behind the lockers.  When Coach Willis walked in, clipboard in hand, SNAP went the towel.  Ben, who was holding the towel, ended up eating it for breakfast.

7RBj

DISCLAIMER:  This writer and Word Press stand firmly against bullying, in all its forms. No person was actually hurt, in the making of this video.

Crossing The Line

4

May 6, 2018, Prescott-

I called Papa and told him of Antonio’s ruse.  He uttered a Sicilian oath and then told me to stay on his tail.  “Keep the receipts and remember, this is business.”

Marco Siqueiros opted to get off I-84, at Rte. 9, and headed north.  I figured, correctly, that Tony just didn’t want to pay tolls- so there was no Thruway and no river crossings.  The chiselers blazed past Albany; so we did, too.  When they stopped for gas, in Lake George, we waited by the curb, until they were almost ready to leave.  Aurelio, a Mexican chauffeur for my Papa, was not known to Tony, so with cousin Donnie and me slumped down, “Rico” was able to gas up.  As luck would have it, Marco had to use the facilities, so we still left in tandem with the schmucks.

The woods and plains of northeastern New York passed by in agonizing slowness, as Marco seemed rather leisurely in his northward jaunt.  It was dark, when we followed them into Plattsburgh, where they took a room in a lakeside motel.  Aurelio got a room in the same motel, while Donnie and I walked across the street to the Motel 6, with Rico promising to take cat naps and set the alarm for 3 AM, then for 6, and to alert us when he saw movement.

It was 4 AM, when the Acorenos woke- and the God of us all rousted Aurelio, with a full bladder.  The driver threw himself together, mercifully taking a minute to brush his teeth, before following the two of them at a discrete distance.  We got the signal, and were ready when our vehicle pulled to the curb.

From there, Tony and Marco took a predictable route- headed for the Canadian border.  Papa had foreseen this, and had a plan in place, for this eventuality.  When we buzzed home, Sonny answered and told us to turn around.  “Youse don’t have any more to do.  Papa has men to take over, on the other side.  Head back to Baltimore.”

“Jeez Luweez!  What are we, chopped chicken liver?”, I protested.  Papa got on the line, posthaste.  “Listen, Gino, you did a magnificent job.  Now it’s time for me to call in a favour, from the Palmieri family in Montreal.  Their guys are already waiting for Tony and his cousin.  Come on back home.  I love you, boy!”

We turned around, on a side street in Champlain.  Aurelio did not see the bogus police cruiser pull in behind us.  In a matter of seconds, the gunfire had taken him out, and wounded Donnie in the chest.  I got by with a flesh wound, but we all were transported to the hospital, by a random farm worker, who called in the hit to the county sheriff.  New York State police nabbed the two hit men,  about seventeen miles out of Champlain, headed towards Massena, on a county road.  Tony’s Plan B had run amok.

Poor Marco, though.  The Palmieris took him out, with a single shot, three minutes into Quebec.  Antonio Ribeiro was now in hiding, with no knowledge of the French language, and no car, as Mikey Palmieri had seen to the getaway car’s tires and radiator.  At least he remembered his passport.

The Kiosk

3

April 30, 2018, Prescott-

(This piece is based on real events in my life, recently).

As Gregory was walking through the Saturday Market, he noticed an unusual kiosk, offering raw  cacao beans and blended products.  A winsome lady smiled and beckoned him over, then proceeded to explain the efficacy of cacao, as a health aid, whilst offering samples of both the raw bean and blends.

“I’m Greg, and these are delicious items.  Let me buy this peanut butter-cacao cup and a bag of maple infused flakes.!”  “Thank you, Greg.  I am Medina.  It’s nice to make your acquaintance.”

“And I am Gerhard”, came a deep but not unpleasant voice from Greg’s rear.  “Geri is my beloved”, Medina interjected, “We work together on this project.”

Gerhard changed the subject, inviting Greg to sit, in the back of the kiosk. “Gregory, we know who you are.  I have been watching you since the tragedy.  You have done well, keeping your health, as Leanna would have wanted.  You have branched out some, traveling widely and learning to not let naysayers tie you down.”

“Yes, it has been a time of growth for me.  I know Lee wants me to do these things.”

Gerhard held up a hand.  “You must visit this kiosk, every Saturday that you are here, for the foreseeable future.  On each visit, you will encounter an angel, who will teach you a key step in your continued growth.  You will also encounter a challenger, who will try to ensnare you with the darkness of your past environment, making it seem like a way to pleasure. Medina and I will witness, and the beings may interact with us.  You, though, will make the choice.”

Greg felt a wave of reassurance, and on each subsequent visit, he indeed met both teacher and charlatan.  He listened carefully to both, whilst making a decision to more carefully honour the angelic.

On the penultimate kiosk of the winter season, Medina cautioned Greg.  “You are in late middle age, yet you are attractive to several women-other than me.  Some are close at hand; others far away.   Towards some, you will feel a like attraction; others will not entice you in the least.  Some are close to you in age; others could be your child..  You must, of course, treat each and all with profound respect.”  “My mother always told me these things, when I came of age”, Greg replied, ” I have held them in my heart, all these years.”  “Yes, and you were most loving to Leanna”, Medina intoned. “Soon, though, you will encounter five women.  One, a decade your junior,  will be your prime mentor, and will alternately encourage and chastise you.  Another, very young, will love you from a safe distance, always wanting your attention but feeling guilty about it, with all the drama this conflict entails.  A third, also a decade your junior, will want you to return to the Faith of your past, as a condition of friendship.  The fourth will correspond with you for a time, and will prove a challenger, enticing you, then disappearing.  The fifth, close to you in age, will dally with you from a distance, and will ignore your lack of interest in romantic interlude with her, pleading, for what will seem like an eternity, that you join her in the desert.  You will choose among them, but I must caution, as your mother surely would, to hurt none of them.”

Greg was taken greatly aback by this admonition.  He vowed to not let either his attraction or disinterest lead him astray.  A few years earlier, after all, his mourning for Leanna had clouded his vision, and caused two fine women considerable harm.

Across town, Nikki thought of the older man who frequently came into her store and had been uniformly interested in her as  a person, if shy.  She wished he would come by this day.

Antonio’s Comeuppance

12

April 28, 2018, Prescott-

So, we got Santino to the hospital, in plenty of time and being a Castaldo, and a made man, to boot, Sonny got the best treatment.  Papa wasn’t too thrilled at seeing his prime button man have the drop done on him-especially by a “dope”, like Tony Ribeiro.  “He’s from the &*!#$ Azores, for the love of Christ!”, my sainted father shouted, “All those people know is netting mackerel”.

Sonny was thus taken down a notch, but at least there was no kiss planted on his cheek, or other made man positioned behind him, in the staff car.  Tony, on the other hand, received an unannounced visit from important personages in our extended family.  He cordially greeted the capos and offered them rich, dark coffee and some Azorean pastries, as was his wont.  The men took the offered refreshments and warily plotted their gift of a comeuppance to their brother-in-arms’ assailant.

Unfortunately for those plans, it took the Lunesta about two minutes to kick in.  Tony carefully dragged the men out of his shop and closed early.  He was in Armonk, NY, when the news came over the radio, of an unfortunate blaze in Baltimore’s Flower Mart.  “Ah, well, it’s to be expected. Alfredo Castaldo doesn’t have much of a sense of humour”, Mr. Ribeiro mused, as he pointed his car towards Connecticut, took out his travel bag and set the car alight.

Neither he, nor his cousin Marco, who picked him up, noticed the boys and me following, as the getaway car headed north towards Albany.

 

Mr. Ribeiro

15

April 16, 2018, Prescott-

The cicadas started early this year.  Spring Break is usually not a time for such serenades.  Truth be known, my Nonna wishes there were never such a festival della canzone. It keeps her awake, tossing and thrashing- so she puts on a CD of the late Pope John XXIII, talking about the saints.  That of course, sets her to crying, and brings Mama, ever ready to console, into her bedroom.  In short order, the rest of us are up and making plans to start the day.  It is 3 A.M.  Not even the bakers are awake, in Little Italy, at this hour.

Baltimore is ready for action, though, at any time that one chooses to get going.  Papa gets showered and dressed- and expects us boys to follow suit.  “I got some deliveries we can handle, Gennaro.  Santino, you go over to the Flower Mart, and drop off the bags of mulch.  Ribeiro ought to already be there.  He has nothing else to do, after all.”

Antonio Ribeiro had come to the Flower Mart from New Bedford, where he had been the odd duck in his south side neighbourhood, preferring to cultivate flowers, rather than run numbers, or crack cocaine for the Shower Posse, who were ubiquitous in southern New England, in the early ’80’s.  His boys protected “Simple Tony”, and besides, the girls were all over him- and would have not taken well to the Jamaicans mistreating him.

He’d been a fixture in Baltimore for ten years now.  Antonio lived in a small room, in the back of his Flower Mart stall.  “It saves capital”, he told his clients.  He needed no car, did not have any prevailing vices and slept on a woven mat.  His meals were obtained by barter- his flowers, gratis, to local restaurateurs, in exchange for small meals:  Simple Tony, simple diet.

My brother pulls into the Flower Mart, right around 4 A.M.  Mr. Ribeiro is up and at ’em, with the rows of pots and vases 2/3 full- ahead of the 5 o’clock opening.  “Buon giorno, young Castaldo”, he chirps at Sonny.  “Back at ya, signor”, brother responds, while plopping the sacks of mulch on their customary pallets, “Pop says it’ll be two and  a quarter.”

“Tell your father I’ll need to settle with him on the First, Santino.  Things are a bit tight, this third week of August.”  Sonny massages his chin, turning a flinty eye towards the flower vendor.  “Okay, Mr. Ribeiro, that’s what my Papa figured you’d say.  Guess there’s no mulch until September 1.”  Santino, my hulking brother, alley-oops the mulch back into his truck.

He doesn’t feel the cudgel that knocks him cold.  My hulking brother is found, unconscious, in the cab of his otherwise empty truck, at 7 A.M., at Pier 26, in the Inner Harbor.

Simple Tony Ribeiro is not quite so simple.

Reading List and A Full Plate

6

January 7, 2017, Prescott- 

My best friend and I had a wide-ranging conversation, yesterday, about  inner peace, among other things.  She suffered a loss, recently, and the subject arose about those who blame others for their pain and suffering.  Neither she nor I blame anyone but ourselves, if things go sideways in our lives.  I love her dearly, but if she bid me farewell tomorrow, I would go on, and figure it wasn’t meant to be, for longer than it was.  On the other hand, I am glad for every minute of our friendship, and will treat her like royalty, as long as it lasts.

Those of us who are blessed by the Universe tend to have a mighty full plate.  I was informed today about another responsibility that my fellow Baha’is would like me to assume.  My financial education continues, work resumes tomorrow and I still like to read as many of  the posts on my Reader, as humanly possible.    Exercise remains important. I will also make time for M, when she needs me. So, the schedule remains, 4:30 AM-10 PM, 6 days a week, and a “sleep-in” until 5:30, on Sunday.

My winter reading list is also present, to fill in the “gaps” in my day:  “Cash Flow Quadrant”, by Robert Kiyosaki; “Facing Grief With Eyes Wide Open”, by Medea Bavarella Chechik; “Tribe”, by Sebastian Junger; “Winter of the World”, by Ken Follett; “Footloose in America”, by Bud Kenny; “The Elegant Universe”, by Brian Greene.  That should last until March 21, or 31.

We were talking, at a meeting today, in Phoenix, about how people often assume the young and the old have lots of time on their hands.  I can’t speak for the kids, but there is joy for me, in choosing to maintain a full schedule.

Old Sod

14

March 17, 2016, Prescott- 

Paddy, my brother,

what did you find,

while walking the fair isle’s countryside?

Brigid, dear sister,

it gleamed up at me,

a golden shamrock,

which I’ve brought home to thee.

Paddy, o brother,

I fear that you’ve erred.

The golden stone surely

was meant to be interred.

Brigid, dear sister,

do you mean to say

the sprite named Liam

shall spirit it away?

Aye,

I sense his presence,

on the roof.

Liam! Stop,

let us have the shamrock.

Sorry, kiddos-

POOF!

The Weevils Don’t Stand A Chance

6

February 21, 2016, Prescott-

 

24. tower, kettle, hawk, charm, cotton

This little verse is about a tower, and the fields below.

A group of slaves found themselves set free,

The tower once home to their masters,

Became theirs to oversee.

The crop they grew was cotton,

Their fields were often sodden.

The moisture also led to evil,

in the form of  dreadful weevils.

Now, the ex-captives were not simple-minded,

nor to solutions were they blinded.

On a cool spring morning,

they met and talked.

Of a sudden,

they heard a squawk.

The tower’s roof

was now home to a hawk.

“How do we get our bird friend

to like weevils?”, one mused.

“Let us spread some kettle corn!”,

another newly freed man enthused.

“This will draw some swamp rats in,

the hawk will swoop down and feast on the vermin.

Once the rats have been decimated,

the raptor will seek another way to be sated.

He will spot the busy weevils,

make several meals of them,

and the cotton, reap, we will!”

So it went, that the men worked hard,

their own well-being, to safeguard.

They managed to charm some ladies from town,

and families soon sprang up.

The team was no longer trodden down.