Chance meetings that satisfy the soul

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A few days ago, I stopped by Savers Thrift Store. Savers (savers.com) is a for-profit shop, unlike Goodwill or Salvation Army. The West Springfield Savers donates a percentage of its profits to The West Springfield Boys and Girls Club. It is definitely hit or miss, but I rarely leave with out buying something.

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I have found Wexford glasses and amber colored canisters~both of which I collect~at Savers as well as on Etsy.com. I have also found frogs for my garden décor at Savers and on Craigslist.org.

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Currently, I am shopping for vases and plates to make glass garden sculptures. Here’s some photos of a few that I have made.

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While I was shopping and holding up vases and plates trying to imagine what they might look like together, I gained the attention of two women shoppers. One said to the other, “Let’s follow her.”

I explained that I was buying vases and plates to make sculptures for our yard and flower gardens. They would occasionally hold something up for me to consider. When I was about to cash out, I showed them all the stuff I found. One woman picked up a couple pieces from the shelf and started playing around. I made a suggestion and “Viola!” she had a nice looking sculpture. She was so happy and decided to buy the three pieces~ a dark blue short square vase, a round clear plate, and a tall chartreuse vase. I told her what glue to use and wished her luck. Here’s what I found…Eighteen pieces for about $50.00.

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These interactions and connections are soul satisfying, aren’t they? God is in the small details of our daily lives.

As I was checking out, I overheard that a woman had lost her car keys. She had called for a tow and a locksmith as she didn’t have a second set at home. She said she dropped them somewhere and that someone “took” her keys.

After I got all my bundles in my car, I went to speak with her. I could see that she was rattled and I wanted to offer some calming words. She confirmed that she checked everywhere twice. I ended our conversation by saying, “Well, all that is left to do is pray.” She said she would. I said a prayer for her, too.

Lesson Learned~Offer a smile, an encouraging word, advice and a prayer to people with whom you cross paths.

Joe Gets Out-smarted and Mare Gets Her Due

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Joe determined that the time was right to sell the bar business based on economic conditions at the time.  I am sure Mare was very happy to know of his decision for it would be the end of crazy years for her.

When it came time for the legal closing meeting with the new buyers, Mare showed up with her own attorney to represent her. [I’ll let you add your own exclamation point there.] Do you believe it?  Joe must have shit in his pants, but even a rage-aholic knows when to behave, right? Her lawyer, Mr. White, demanded on Mare’s behalf to get one half of the proceeds from the sale. Done deal.

Mare told me Joe never, ever said anything to her about her bold move. She thought Joe didn’t like it one bit, but he knew he deserved what he got. And, she got what she deserved as a monetary compensation for all the nonsense she put up with. She is one smart, bold woman.

Lesson Learned~Explore all your options. And, as the songs says “Maybe you’ll think before the next time you cheat.”

Mare and her marriage

I have given lots of thought to Mare and her marriage to Joe.

I was wounded as any little child would be as a result of what I experienced. As I look now through adult eyes and look past my own hurt, I think of Mare and what she felt and thought.

I wish I had been less critical and more supportive of her. Less judgmental. She didn’t talk to friends or her family about Joe’s behavior. She did not see a therapist. She didn’t take Valium.

Many people, including myself, wonder why she stayed with him. She loved him and she knew he loved her. He loved being married to her, their home, and having the family, my brothers and me. He didn’t realize nor did he care that he was putting his marriage in jeopardy.

She wanted to be with him and, especially, keep her family intact. She would not have been able to support and house herself and three children on her earnings. Joe’s job provided excellent benefits and, most importantly, future financial security through Social Security, pension, and 401(k) benefits.

Mare was keen and she knew what divorce would mean for her and her children. She didn’t like the stigma of divorce and she knew the negative financial consequences which would follow.

More important, she wanted to prevail. She wasn’t going to lose what she had to a cheap whore. She knew one day he would stop and he eventually did.

What my father thought of his behavior, I have no idea. I don’t think he was ever apologetic or remorseful. I don’t think he had a clue how hurt my mother was, nor the effect on me and my brothers.

A therapist of mine had this perspective: With my parents’ generation and their ethnicity, there were certain things married couples didn’t do sexually. It was thought coarse. Men went outside of the marriage to gets these particular sexual needs met. Whatever.

My personal perspective is that men who continually cheat as Joe did [it wasn’t a fling and it wasn’t a love affair] have a compulsion, even an addiction to a thrill or a high they get from illicit sex. Maybe they have a bad gene. Whatever.

Lesson Learned~The important thing for me is that women learn how to identify these men and stay far away from them unless they want their heart broken and their children broken.

Joe Buys a Bar and Another Bar. My Innocence Lost.

Joe didn’t drink at home: he said only alcoholics drank at home. We didn’t have beer or liquor at our home. He didn’t hang out in bars, but he did frequent bars occasionally. So it was a surprise to me when he bought a bar, named Joe’s Café, on Worthington Street in Springfield. I don’t know if it was a surprise to Mare; whether he discussed it with her or informed her before it happened. I don’t think she would have been supportive of the idea. Remember, he was still working full-time at the power plant.

I also don’t know how Joe learned about buying, owning and running a bar business.

I remember it had a beautiful mahogany bar and mahogany tables and booths. I cannot remember how long he owned it or when he sold it.

He then bought another bar, named The Playboy Club, [not associated with the national company] also on Worthington Street in Springfield, adjacent to Bennie’s Deli. He was still working at the power plant and Mare was working at The Springfield Armory at this point.

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My brother, Danny, worked full-time at the bar. And there were other nice men who worked the bar too: Jimmy Sullivan and Gene [I can’t recall his last name]. These men and their wives became very good friends with my parents.

I am not really sure how to describe the bar. I think there were a lot of sad, lonely people there, may be even looking for love. Who knows? It was a time of tremendous boon in Springfield.  Construction of Baystate West started in 1969 and that brought into the bar many construction workers, including the iron workers who supposedly came down from Canada. My mother never wanted to use the elevators at Baystate West. She had seen the construction workers drink and she didn’t have confidence that the elevators were constructed properly.

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My mother really wasn’t involved with the bar, except occasionally when something went amok and she had to either open or close the bar~be the key and money bag person. I think it was a very sad environment for my brother Danny to be in, seeing people ruining their lives with drink.

Together, my brothers, Jimmy and Danny, bought their own bar and package store in Westfield in the 1970’s. The package store sold  several years ago and the bar sold in 2015. They were in business for 40 years and it was the longest period for a bar to have been owned by the same owners in Massachusetts. They enjoyed great success over the years.

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I think the link to bars is now broken in the McCarthy family as Jimmy’s three children [Karen, Danny, and Kate]  are all college graduates and have successful professional careers. Danny and I did not have children.

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Mare was not happy about Joe owning the bar.  She felt it gave him opportunity to get into trouble, meaning to drink and carouse more with his whore, who he was involved with even before he owned the bar.

This obviously was a huge hurt and disappointment for Mare. I never saw that Mare took this situation personally, nor did she hold Joe fully responsible. Rather, she blamed it on the whore who was available and all too willing to have sex with Joe.

family1[Mare and Joe at Jimmy and Eleanor’s wedding, April 25, 1970.]

For my part, I was exposed to this awful, adult situation and it created great unhappiness in me, from a very young age. Sad, confused, ashamed–a loss of innocence. This was my first experience with loss. I remember my brother Danny trying to explain it to me: “He’s a man, only too human.”

family5[With Joe at St. Thomas Church on the day of my First Communion in 1962. I was 7 years old.]

I hated my father and could not understand why she stayed with him. I wanted to protect my mother from any hurt. This situation went on for years, off and on. I don’t know what else to say about Joe that isn’t obvious or cliché.

Lesson Learned~Never get involved or marry or stay married to an unfaithful man. Never.

Joe invests in the stock market and creates more financial prosperity

As Joe was a smart man and there was ‘extra money’, so to speak, in the household, Joe invested in the stock market to increase his wealth. I don’t know how he educated himself about the markets and companies and investment risks. He likely read and studied somewhat and then took a big load of money to a downtown Springfield stock brokerage office to invest in stocks that he had picked himself.

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Back then, I remember that he had money in Shenley Whiskey and Allegheny Steel. On his days off, he would go to the brokerage office and watch the ticker tape come through and see how his investments were doing.

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He read The Barron’s.

He would come home and at the dinner table tell us what had happened at the market that day and about a particular woman who was always in the Shearson-Hammil office. She was a Jewish woman, named Molly Shulman. [I would meet Molly Shulman many years later in a totally different experience.] She had blond hair and it was always a mess, said my father. I suspect she was quite a character and my father likely learned a lot from her. I could tell my mother didn’t like hearing about her: “Why doesn’t she fix her hair?”, my mother asked.

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One day, Joe took my mother, and my brothers, and me to New York City to visit the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street. I can remember being up in the gallery, looking down on all the men, scrambling about. There were no computers or electronics or women on the trading floor at that time. It was quite an adventure for a young girl like me.

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Lesson Learned~Invest your money to create more wealth. Take risks.

Mare and Joe and Money

As I said, Joe earned good money at the plant, plus incentives for the second and third shifts, plus overtime. He was considered a hard worker who provided well for his family. He gave Mare money to run the household; every Thursday, payday he would put money on the table for her. He paid certain bills like property taxes, water and sewer, insurance, heating oil. She paid for everything else.

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However, if Mare wanted something special or more for the household or children or herself, she went to work to pay for it. She worked at Burnam’s, a fine dress shop in Springfield and at a thread making company, Talon’s in West Springfield, and at Steiger’s, a department store in Westfield. steigersAfter she retired from Steiger’s, Mare worked as a teacher’s aide in the West Springfield school system for special needs students.

Joe also worked on construction projects with his Uncle Albert Knapp whenever Uncle Al needed him and Joe had the time off. This brought extra money into the household.

My parents weren’t big spenders, neither were they especially frugal or tight with their money. They each bought what they wanted and always bought quality, never cheap. My father always drove a nice, new car and our house was kept up. Whereas my mother was generous with me and my brothers and even with Joe, I don’t ever remember Joe giving me, my brothers, or Mare a gift of any kind. I am grateful we had general prosperity and financial stability in the household, as I know many of my friends did not enjoy the same in their homes. I hope you see that they were two very independent people.

Mare told me that she and Joe gave large cash gifts to their grandchildren when they bought their homes. People do change and time mellows. Joe must have felt he had enough money to share at that point in his life to be generous with his grandchildren.

I don’t remember my parents ever fighting over money. However, I do remember one day when my father got the mail and there was a bill from a department store. He went into a rage, [remember, Joe is a rage-aholic] yelling and screaming at Mare, because he did not like credit. He thought you should pay cash for what you bought, period. Well, she won that battle because she had credit cards and she paid her own bills, period.

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Lesson Learned~ Earn your own money, pay your own bills.

A Tribute to Alberto Mancini

Bruce and I are saddened by the loss of our friend Alberto Mancini who passed in April at the very young age of 56 in Italy.

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We met Alberto through Ann Black who was Bruce’s neighbor in Eastworks, in Easthampton.  Alberto was from Italy and they carried on a long distance relationship over many years with Alberto coming here and Ann going there.

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Alberto Mancini was from the small town of Atina, located in the mountains of southern Italy where his family has lived for 400 years.  His father, a portrait photographer, taught Alberto to draw at a very young age, and encouraged him to experiment with a variety of media.  Alberto had his first art exhibition at the age of 15.  The work displayed was of figures and landscapes in oil. He earned his doctorate in architecture with highest honors from the University of Venice.

In 1992, after a two-year hiatus from painting, while recovering from a brain hemorrhage that put him in a coma for two months and left him partially paralyzed for two years, Alberto began painting again. His work, a series of thirty-five abstract paintings inspired by ponds and skies, is filled with layered color and light.

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Living in Ann’s loft in Eastworks was an ideal setting for Alberto to work, creating wonderful, large pieces of art in oil.

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He had a special way of seeing the world through nature and he wanted the viewer to enter his work, but to see for themselves what moved them.

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He was good-looking, funny, approachable, spoke with an Italian accent. He and Ann often conversed in Italian. They met in Florida where his works of art was exhibited by a gallery who represented him.

They hosted  lots of parties in their loft and they were always grand affairs, with lots of people, food, drink, conversation, and their huge candle-lit chandelier. They later moved to a brownstone on Mattoon Street in Springfield.

For some odd reason, Alberto said “Fuckin chicken” when he saw Bruce. He said it was a line from the movie, “Little Miss Sunshine”.  Something must have been lost in translation because we didn’t get the connection, but we all laughed, every time

One conversation we recall:

Alberto: What are you doing to those artichokes? Did they not teach you how to cook at Smith College?

Ann: It was not that kind of place.

Alberto: But it was a college for women?

Just for the record, Ann was a Smith College graduate and she is a wonderful cook.

They came to our home for gatherings with family and friends.

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Mare was entranced with Alberto as he came from Italy and he actually knew of the small village town, Arche, where Mare’s father came from.  She took quite an interest in him and she always asked us about Alberto. Where was he? Was he painting? When would he return to Italy?  He enjoyed Mare equally~maybe she reminded him of his mother.

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In 2005 Alberto undertook a project to create a body of work based on the poetry of Emily Dickinson. His fascination with her poems lay in what he saw as her desire or need to see beauty in acts of daily domesticity as well as the bloom of a flower or the wings of a butterfly. He created 29 paintings, linked to Emily Dickinson’s poems, and named the exhibit, “I’ll tell you how the sun rose-“.

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Bruce and I and other close friends went to the exhibit at Amherst College. Alberto spoke in Italian to the crowd assembled and Ann interpreted. It was a beautiful day, Spring of 2008.

He dedicated the exhibit to “Ann Black without whom neither this journey nor one of the paintings could come to the life!”

We loved Alberto and will miss him dearly.

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Shopping Brimfield

Hi! Bruce Barone here, filling in for my wife Susan who is off today.
Back in May of 2012, I wrote a guest Blog post for Dovecote Decor. Here it is. I hope you enjoy it.
In geography class we learned
between Boston and the Berkshires
sits the small town named Brimfield;
35 square miles
first settled in 1706–
today its population is 4000
and the town is the site
of the largest antique show in New England,
some say the largest outdoor antique show
in the world, held since 1959
in Brimfield three times each year.
Thursday, May 10, found me on the fields of Brimfield
booked to dealer capacity
under a stormy sky.
Soon after my arrival
the clouds parted and I saw a sign.

Ahead of me the puddled path:
If I fell in the water
I would say “Save me friend.
Throw me a life
preserver.”

I swam on and forward
taking me first to a woman
who I asked “May I photograph you?”
“Here’s my card,” I said, and she said
“How should I pose?”

Then I walked on
and I studied the signs:

I wondered why
they wrote this one
as it was so clear
what it was:

“Great for cooking”
I would have written but no
one asked me. Never-mind I said
as I turned a puddled corner and beheld:

I realized then abundant blessings
flow to me and through me.
I saw
the beautiful bottles

How lovely I thought
they would be in my garden
near a bird house:

this one nailed to the top
of an old pitch fork
contrasting with the recycled license plates:

Maine, I read,
Vermont, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania.
In junior high school in
New Jersey
I played the drums:

Today I might play
a beat or two
with forks and spoons

Have I mentioned there is here
on the fields of Brimfield
a flea market atmosphere
what with Goofy and Mickey:

And Donald Duck:

Once I worked with a woman
named Tita:

In college I was
an art history major:

I thought of Cezanne when I saw
this painting and later Grandma Moses:
Ah, yes, over the river and through the woods
to grandmother’s we go;
be sure to bring along the luggage dear:

I hope she serves us
tea or hot chocolate
in her beautiful cups:

And maybe we all will get
to play with those old toys:

Honk. Honk.
Watch out I am
heading out:

Where are you
going, Bruce,
to a fire?

I saw this old jug;
I thought my friend
Scot Meacham Wood
might like it:

And a frog for Susan;
my fiance, she collects
frogs for our gardens:

Never one to be shy
of color I loved
these chairs:

And this telephone chair and table:
Hello. Hello.

And I love these items
simply for the color:

Open the door,
pull out the gin
and lets make
a pitcher of martinis:

I could tell
by the hands
of the clock it was
getting near Tweet Time:

I walked first
to the great tent of Pandora–
Pandora de Balthazar
A MUST see:

Along the way
there were dolls
in an old police car:

There was this year’s model
or was it last year’s model:

Saw another sign
but alas I never saw
the advertised merchandise:

I had to get to the tent;
the Tweet up
was starting

here my friend
Warren Bobrow
mixed me a delightfully thirst-quenching cocktail;
homemade lemonade, gin, and bitters–I think:
wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee….

I chatted with
the friendly and fashionable
Anne Flanders,
Managing Editor of Fashion Decor

I chatted with
the handsome and distinguished
Shane Inman

I chatted with
the charming and charitable
Cari Cucksey

And me?
You would have recognized me
by my green sweater
and hat

Let me end this update
with one last sign
I saw on the fields of Brimfield
which I believe
is a beautiful daily mantra;
because of the power of words–
whatever we voice
we begin to attract:

Mare and the DPW

Bruce Barone  and I were just having our lunch and Bruce was expressing his dissatisfaction with the West Springfield DPW for only having 2 special pick ups in the Spring for lawn debris. He thinks there should be more pickups, rather than having citizens bring their own debris to the town dump. He asked if Mare was ever dissatisfied with the DPW.

I can remember one time Mare called the DPW. She told the Superintendent that she “didn’t like the way the trash man T-H-R-E-W her trash barrel, rather then placing it down, upright on the side of the street”. She said there was no need for that.

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He responded: “Lady that’s the LEAST of my problems.”

Can’t you just picture him? I big man with a gravely voice with a cigar hanging out of his mouth, taking Mare’s call?

Later when she told me about it, Mare laughed. She said he’d have  something to tell his wife that night about his day at work.

Lesson Learned~If you are going to complain, be sure it is legitimate and significant enough to be taken seriously by the receiver.

Joe: His Work and his Businesses Part I

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Joe worked at the West Springfield Power Plant for 4 decades. He was a first class stationary engineer, a highly skilled and paid position. He worked the rotary shift, which means he worked 7 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. one week [2 days off], then 3:00 p.m. to 11 p.m. the next week [2 days off], and then 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. the following week [4 days off]. He didn’t seem to mind it, but Mare said it was hard. She said it was hard to keep the children quiet while Joe was sleeping during the day and to keep household noises to an absolute minimum.

Joe was always reliable, dependable and when he worked ‘maintenance duty’ which was double shifts he earned extra money. When he retired, his supervisor said that Joe never called in sick except when his horse was sick [more about that later].

He was a member of a union called the I.B.E.W. [International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers]. He was part of the successful unionization effort as conditions at the plant were unsafe and hiring practices were unfair [jobs were not posted or relatives were hired and promoted over seasoned workers].

He was the shop steward and he was a negotiator for the unionized workers. Joe was rough around the edges, but you would want someone like him negotiation your wages, benefits, and working conditions.

After one particularly contentious negotiation in which the union prevailed in all the ways that were crucial for them, Joe telephoned Mare to join him and others on the team as well as management for a celebratory drink at The Schine Inn where the negotiation meetings took place. Of course, at that time, mid 60’s, Mare did not have her own car and Joe suggested she call Barbara, a pretty young woman who lived next door who had a car.

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Mare got all dressed up and she and Barbara went to the Schine Inn for drinks with Joe and the other men. She must have felt this was a special occasion as she ordered a Martini which she had never had before.  She said when she and Joe got home and she was in their bedroom undressing, she could not unzip her own dress. Joe had to unzip it for her. She said the room was spinning around her. I bet it was!

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Lesson Learned~ Never order a Martini unless you know you can handle it.