Tuesday, July 22

Picture it, Sicily, 1923...

She was not really Sicilian but she did a lot of things that reminded me of my Sicilian grandmother. I loved the character of Sophia Petrillo on the Golden Girls, played by Estelle Getty, who died at 84 today. I know, she looked 84 when she was on the show in the 1980's but she was actually younger than Bea Arthur, who played her daughter! I never missed that show as a teenager and I still watch the re-runs on my little treadmill television at the gym. Very uncool, I realize, but the only reason I go to the gym is to pick up octagenarians.

I crack up when I hear her crazy "picture it, Sicily" stories, like the one when she was friends with Mama Celeste, or she slept with Pablo Picasso. I found the clip on YouTube:

Her character's sarcasm was unparalleled. Here are some of my favorite lines of Sophia's:

Sophia: Make way for the victors.
Rose: You won the big game?
Sophia: No, Rose. We lost and we all changed our names to Victor.

Rose: Penny for your thoughts Sophia?
Sophia: You’re and idiot and that’s on the house.

Rose; Did they have chores in Sicily?
Sophia: Are you kidding? They invented chores in Sicily. Crossing the street without getting pregnant was a chore in Sicily

Estelle Getty was Jewish and she played a Sicilian immigrant. She's not the only one, though. (Allow me to digress from my tribute to Estelle...) It always struck me as odd how Hollywood casts so many
Jewish people to play Italians. Case in point:

- Sophia Petrullo- "Golden Girls-" Estelle Getty
- Dorothy Zbornak-"Golden Girls-" Bea Arthur
- The Fonz- "Happy Days-" Henry Winkler
- Frank DeFazio- Laverne's father on "Laverne and Shirley"- Phil Foster (born Arthur Cohen)
Paul Muni, Edward G. Robinson- played Italian gangsters in movies.

I know there has never been a shortage of Italian actors so what gives?

Supposedly, real Italians don't look as Italian as Jews. I don't know what that means or who the Italians are that the casting agents saw but they need to visit my family and cast a few of us.

But, I've also heard that Italians look more like native Americans.
Remember this guy?

He was known as Iron Eyes Cody (from the pollution commercial) but his real name was Espera DeCorti, and he was Sicilian-American born in the US of Sicilian immigrants! (However, he did live his life as a native American, marrying a Native American woman, adopting Native American sons and dedicating his life to native American causes.)

So it is a sad day for Estelle Getty's fans. Looking on the internet for a video of her I found a huge amount of tributes and comments from fans, so I know I an not alone. The poor thing died from dementia, a really terrible way to go, and to picture her dying like that is the total opposite of how many of us remember her in real life, both on the show and off. Rest in Peace, Estelle.

Thursday, July 17

Remembering Rosie

Two years ago today my mentor and dear friend passed away from breast cancer. Dr. Rosario Caminero was my graduate school Spanish professor whom I had met two years before starting grad school when I worked in the Foreign Languages Department as an assistant. I got to know her very well working there and by the time I got my B.A. and signed up for her grad courses, I already had a tremendous respect for her. Her knowledge of Spanish linguistics and composition was vast and her classes were always upbeat and interesting. I looked forward to those intensive graduate classes-five days a week- and even the compositions, because she was the professor. I learned more from her in two years than I had in the four previous years- she was that incredible.

Cuban-born and bred, she had the most wonderful accent in English and in Spanish. Dr. Rosie, as I called her because I respected her too much to call her by her first name as she asked, dressed with panache. She always wore a brightly colored dress or skirt to teach or a beautiful pantsuit, and never without stylish shoes. She walked with a clip and always seemed to be in motion, talking with her hands- her Spanish and English coming out rapid fire. She smelled of Giorgio perfume, a scent I liked so much I bought it myself but it didn't smell the same on me. Simply put, she was my guru, my mentor, my inspiration to become a teacher, for when I first met her I was not a teaching major- I was set to graduate with a B.A. in Spanish which did not qualify me to teach- I needed a B.S.Ed.

I began the graduate program immediately after I graduated so I could become certified to teach. Still unsure of my decision after many mornings full of pedagogy classes, my future as a Spanish teacher eventually fell into place in the afternoons in her classroom. Her love for teaching, her patience and her passion were all qualities I wanted to emulate. She made teaching look fun, enjoyable and dare I saw... rewarding! I wanted my students to enjoy my classes as much as I enjoyed hers. She counseled me on boyfriend troubles, family situations and taught me what it took to be a great teacher. She was my surrogate mom.

Rosie lost her battle with breast cancer on July 17, 2006. The only time I have felt as sad as I did that day was when my grandparents passed away. I am grateful for having had her in my life to inspire me, to guide me and to be there for me to try to emulate. Her stylish pumps are way too big to fill but she is always present for me to look to as an example. And I will never forget the advice she gave me on my wedding day, which I am so happy was caught on videotape: "Claudia, acuérdate quién es la jefa." ("Claudia, remember who is the boss"- she used the feminine form to mean me.)

Rest In Peace, Dr. Rosie

Sunday, July 13

For you IPhone Phans

And this, my friends, is why I don't buy Apple anymore.

Pilfered from my friend Alberto de la Cruz at Babalublog

Friday, July 11

I Flip for Waverunning!

I love jetskiing. The wind in my face, the salt on my lips, the thrill of zipping over water- I look forward to the shore just for that. I always go to the same place-- the owners are Claudio and Claudia and they are both from Argentina, accents and all. They make a big fuss over me because of my name and we always speak in Spanish, which was my problem today, but I'll get to that.

So today I took my oldest daughter and her BFF with me. They screamed and hollered and my daughter's arms were squashing me through my life jacket as we bumped and flew over giant wakes caused by the other six skis that were with us. The water was choppy as a result and a few times I had to fight to get control of the ski to get back on course and stay within the designated area. Several times a giant wake or two completely doused us with foam, which was all part of the fun.

What I did not count on, however, was having problems docking. I cut the motor as directed so I would drift over to the dock. But, instead of drifting forward, I drifted backwards. I started the motor again and turned around and cut it, this time drifting toward the patrol boat not far from the dock. I started the motor again to get away from the boat and turned to the left, hard. In doing so, I flipped the ski over, sending two teenage girls flying into the water. But while I was doing this, Claudio was on the dock yelling to me in Spanish while using gestures. I couldn't hear or understand him and as I opened my mouth to say "Como?" I flipped right over the ski with the girls, unplugging the kill switch attached to my jacket and, mouth open, swallowing a whole lot of the Atlantic's saltiest. I popped up and instinctively reached for the girls, grabbing one with each hand while I tried to get back to the ski and tread water-- impossible to do. The patrol boat guy told me he'd take one of them. Well, neither wanted to get back on the ski with me, so I dragged them over to the boat and they hopped on, and I figured I'd just swim to the dock. "Uh, you have the key," the guy said. "Oh, yeah, guess I have to get back on." And that, I'm sure was a sight, as I mounted the triple ski from the back, throwing myself onto it like a sick fish and crawling up onto the seat. Claudio was ready again to get me to the dock, yelling for me to give it gas and swing it around. I'm thinking to myself- WHY IS THIS SO HARD? I never had problems before! Same marina, same dock, what gives? I docked it, much to Claudio's relief, and still sputtering from drinking a cup of sea water, I went to the shop and got my keys (that's shah-vays in Argentine Spanish) from Claudia who felt bad that I was soaking wet and tried not to laugh.

My daughter and her friend actually enjoyed it, as now they have a story to tell when they get home. I reminded them that we went over huge wakes, got cut off by a rule-breaker who almost tipped us over, and I was flooring it much of the ride and nobody fell over until I tried not to hit the patrol boat, and that was the story I wanted them to tell. My perfect record is ruined. And on top of that, my arms are really sore from driving.

Sunday, July 6

Cursing, Italian Style

I'm in the car on my way to the Joisey shore for a week. Since I am no lover of sand, this is more like my yearly penance, thrust upon me because my inlaws have a house there. I am looking forward to jet skiing which I love.

So we're on I-95 now (I'm not driving, though that would be a trick) and my two kids are fighting and the dogs are barking. My 13 year old has her BFF with her so we're trying to make her think we are not the boisterous Italians that we really are. That's no mean feat because hour two into the trip I deviate from my planned course of civility and let rip the following:

Which is coined from my Dad's homemade cursing of a hateful pig-faced medagon and used for really, absolutely any reason whatsoever.

My oldest shot me a look like "Mom! You Guido! You promised!" and I shot her a look like "would you like to ride strapped to the roof rack?" She stopped instigating and for effect I threw in a loud "MADON."

Other handy expletives and insults you might like to try:
Managia! damn!
faccia di chooch Horse face
State zito! (statazeet) Shut up!
fon-gool (everyone knows this one- it's very vulgar)
Fanabala (va en Napoli- like saying the above but nicer, telling someone to go to Naples instead of doing something to themselves)

my daughter should be grateful that I didn't curse in English, no, I don't get any thanks. Just her malocchio.