Category Archives: History

A Year in the Company of Freaks – A Book Review

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A Year in the Company of Freaks

I recently read this highly enjoyable book by Teresa Neumann. This book was funny, fast paced, and a real pleasure to read. This book takes place during the early 1970″s when hippies were trying to find out of the way places to escape civilization for a while. Sid was born and raised in a small town in Northern California called Trinity Springs. A horrible tragedy during his early life left him feeling lost. While trying to make sense of his life, he ended up doing something really stupid which caused him to earn a year of probation back on his home farm. The sheriff in charge of his parole happened to love this young man, even though he was becoming harder and harder to love. Knowing full well what would set him straight, he “sentenced” him to a year of hard labor on his farm. He also put an ad out for some boarders to help with the expenses of running the farm. Four others joined Sid at his farm – an odd group of people, with nothing in common except for being somewhat lost in their lives – came together for a year to live and work together. Their trials and tribulations during this year were both hilarious and heart-wrenching at the same time. They all needed something and were hoping to find it out in lonely Trinity Springs.

I can highly recommend this book – you end up rooting for each and every character and are anxious to see where life ends up taking them during and after this year spent together.

Meet the Author

Teresa Neumann

 

Author of highly-acclaimed “A Year in the Company of Freaks,” Teresa was raised in a large Midwest family and now lives in Oregon. She is also the author of “Bianca’s Vineyard,” and its sequel, “Domenico’s Table.” Both books are based on the true stories of her husband’s Italian family in Tuscany. In addition to enjoying family, writing, reading, meeting her readers, wine tasting, traveling, and all things Italian, Teresa loves playing the fiddle with other musicians.

Here’s a little guest post by the author, Teresa Neumann

Italy Meets California in a Stereo Breaking — or Not — Hippie Adventure 

Years ago, my high-school aged children and their friends began badgering my husband and I about our old “hippie days.” Despite my admonition that it wasn’t all “flowers and rainbows” – that there were equal parts “thorns and twisters” – they, like most fun-loving adolescents and adults, preferred to believe that you can “have your cake and eat it too.”

The truth is, you can have fun, but cross certain lines – illegal or legal — and fun can become dangerous and even criminal, with all the consequences that go with it. Thus was born A Year in the Company Freaks, based on my personal observations and coming-of-age experiences living as a Midwest transplant in northern California in the early 1970’s. Considering the truly stupid, reckless things I did in my youth, it’s a miracle I lived to write a novel about that time period!

Now, for those familiar with my first two books – Bianca’s Vineyard and Domenico’s Table – although the setting of Freaks is America, a deep love for Italy definitely bled over into my third novel. For example, the main character, Siderno “Sid” Jackson, is half-Italian and it’s exactly that Italian “half” that helps ground him as he navigates the challenges he faces after getting busted for growing pot. Of course, wine also figures into the storyline. What story about Italians wouldn’t? However, it takes a back seat to pot. This is northern California – ground zero for the marijuana revolution in the U.S. — and Sid is, after all, Italian-AMERICAN.

Other colorful characters play central roles in Freaks (an albino biker from Texas, a tripwire Vietnam Vet, a Jesus Freak, etc.) giving many opportunities to explore, and often break, stereotypes – a key element of the book as well.

Except, that is, when it comes to Italians.

You just can’t break the stereotype of Italians being family-loving, food-loving, wine-loving, passionate lovers of life because that’s exactly what so many of them are. At least many of the ones I know!

And with family-loving, food-loving, wine-loving Sid Jackson, it just might be his saving grace – from loving pot too much.

Connect with the Author:  Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter

Buy the Book:
Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble
Add to Goodreads

 

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A Love Story and a Wedding

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Once my dad decided that the USA was a nice place to settle down, he sent word home that he was coming back to get married! Since my mom had lost her mother when she was 9 years old, my father’s mother took over that role for her. She took her shopping for everything – mainly the favors and the fabric for her wedding dress. The wedding was going to take place the day after Christmas and the dress had to be designed to fit the season. They decided that it was going to be made of pizzo di lana or wool lace. They chose the fabric and a tea length design to go with the fashions of the times. The seamstress made an incredible gown, that even today, is still in wonderful condition. This dress is definitely an heirloom and a treasure. My mother told me that before sewing the hem, the dress needed to be hung for several days so that the weight of it would settle and the hem could be made straight. One of my mom’s friends was a professional model in Milan, and her wedding gift to my mom was the veil! They went to a very exquisite boutique on the infamous Via Montenapoleone in Milan for the headpiece. Sadly, the veil did not made it through the years. The stays became rusted and ruined the fabric covering the corona.

A few weeks before the wedding, as was the custom, the bride and the groom would make the rounds of their guests and bring the confetti or favors. Because my dad was coming home only two days before the wedding, he wouldn’t be able to go with my mom to make these visits. My uncle ended up going with her instead. Even though she appreciated that he was escorting her, she wished that it had been her fiancé.

The day my father was expected to arrive home was a very foggy and gloomy December day. He would be arriving from Milan by train to their little town of Ispra. My mom wanted to surprise my dad by meeting him at the train station, but it was so foggy that she had a hard time seeing anything. Every person she passed, she stared at them hoping that it would be my father. None of them were, and she went back home forlorn and sad.

That afternoon, my father’s sister came running to her house announcing that my dad had finally arrived!  Why he didn’t go down to her home himself, I don’t know, but maybe that’s just the way things were done back them!

They spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day together and all the final preparations for the wedding were made. My father had brought back some vacuum sealed cold cuts from America that were given to him by some friends that owned a salami factory in San Francisco. Vacuum sealing was a new concept at that time, and everyone was so impressed that these cold cuts had come all the way from America. (It’s funny how, at that time, anything that came from America was the best – and now we know that when it comes to cold cuts, Italian products are so much better!). Little finger sandwiches were made with these American delicacies for the wedding feast!

On the day of the wedding, my dad went to my mom’s house with the wedding bouquet. He and my mom walked to the church with their entire entourage of family and friends following behind them. The walk was not far, but the path was all cobblestoned. That didn’t seem to bother my mom as she wore her silk high heeled shoes. She said it was a good thing it wasn’t raining that day, or her shoes would have been ruined!

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During the wedding ceremony, my mom took off her engagement ring and presented it to the Madonna as she had promised when my dad had gone off to America. He had come back, they had gotten married, and now she was going to keep her promise. To this day, on the feast of the Madonna, when they parade the statue through the town, her ring is still there. My mom’s best friend looks for it every year and reports back to my mom!

The reception took place at the villa where my grandmother lived. They had finger foods, champagne, and a beautiful wedding cake (a gift from the town baker, a good friend of my dad’s). They posed for some gorgeous wedding photos and this album has become a beautiful (and rare) treasure to have.

After the reception, the newlyweds took off to begin their honeymoon. The first night was spent in Milan at the Hotel Principe di Savoia.When I went to Milan a few years ago, I was surprised to find out that my hotel was across the street from this very hotel that my parents had stayed at so many years ago. I had to go in to see it and it was still as beautiful and stately as I’m sure it was back in 1955. Before retiring for the night, they had made arrangements to go see a show – Walter Chiari at the Teatro Nuovo . They took the metro and stayed out enjoying their special night. The next morning, they were woken up by the maid because they were still sleeping at 11 am! They were probably so exhausted from all the preparations and excitement of the days before.

They boarded a train that would take them to their honeymoon destination: San Remo on the Italian Coast. I haven’t heard too many stories of this part of the trip only that they visited the famous casino there and dined in the vagone ristorante on the way to San Remo.

Once home from their honeymoon, my dad had to prepare for his trip back to San Francisco. In the meantime, my mom settled her dad with her sister while she moved into the villa with my dad’s mom and younger sister. She didn’t know when she would get the Visa to come to the USA and therefore felt it would be better if she got all her ducks in a row. Little did she know it would take almost three years before she would get that Visa to come to America.

During her time in Italy, while my dad was in the USA, she continued to work. When she got home, she would help my grandmother with her sewing jobs. She shared a room with my father’s youngest sister and they became close friends. They spent time with the custodian’s sisters who were from Sardegna. Young men would pass on the road, looking at these beautiful young girls, and they would refer to my mom as the frutto proibito or the forbidden fruit! My mom missed my dad and the wait was becoming harder and harder to bear.

My dad would come home when he could, and the last time he came home before my mom was allowed to immigrate was going to be the last time. If she wasn’t granted a Visa, he wasn’t going to return to San Francisco. But in a last ditch effort, he asked a priest whom he had known his whole life for assistance. This priest knew the cardinal of Milan, Cardinal Montini. He and my dad went to Milan where they met with the Cardinal’s secretary. They came back very hopeful and were assured that things would work out shortly. Within days, my mom was summoned to the American Consulate in Genova. She was given a physical, and asked some questions as to her intent to emigrate. She was sent home and within a week, she received the notice that the Visa she desired was approved with the help of Cardinal Montini. She was on her way at last. Little did she realize that this same Cardinal Montini would become Pope Paul VI! She still has the letter from the Cardinal granting her the wish she so desired!

She packed a giant trunk and filled it with her dowry. She had linens, tea sets, clothes, and a Madonna that used to be in her bedroom. The mirror on the back of the Madonna was the only thing that broke on the long voyage to San Francisco. Seven years of bad luck definitely did not follow her, though!

My Dad and America!

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The story of how my family came to the USA is a bit convoluted – but which immigration saga isn’t? The twists and turns of how things turned out are what makes these stories so fascinating. The crazy, and sometimes funny adventures that occurred during the actual immigration, are truly gems in my eyes. They are treasures that I want to remember forever and to pass on to my children. So here goes my story:

It all started out with my paternal grandfather and his brother. These two young boys from the early 1900’s had dreams of coming to America! My uncle came first (around 1905) and somehow found his way to San Francisco. The story goes that he made the voyage in a crate, but who knows how much of that is really true! Perhaps he was a stowaway? Again, who knows! All we know is that he settled in San Francisco and ended up owning a very prosperous restaurant. This SF uncle would eventually become our connection to the USA. My grandfather, on the other hand, came a bit later to enlist in World War I as an American! He probably saw that as his ticket to residency. Here’s a picture of my grandfather in his uniform.

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Even though my grandfather enlisted in World War I in 1917, he never saw battle. At the end of the war, he went back to Italy and got married to my grandmother. It’s not clear if they were already sweethearts or not but that’s why, perhaps, he went back. They married in 1920 and had their first child, my aunt, in 1922. In July of 1926, my dad came along. When my dad was 4 months old, my grandfather decided to bring his family to the USA. They sailed from Genova aboard the Conte Rosso – my grandmother, my grandfather, my aunt and my dad. Here they are posing for their portrait!

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They settled in Milford, NH. My grandfather ran a granite yard there. They stayed for 4 years, during which time my uncle was born (automatically making him an American citizen – this will become important later in the story!). My grandmother tried to endure life in America for her husband’s sake, but she really didn’t like it here. To please her, my grandfather decided to return to Italy with his family in tow. Here they are on their return to Italy (this time there are 3 children):

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They settled in Ispra where my dad stayed until he immigrated in 1955. According to records I discovered on Ancestry, my grandfather returned one more time to the USA in 1930. No one knows why and I guess we never will. I don’t know how long he stayed, but he was back before my aunt was born in 1933! My grandfather died at the young age of 51 from meningitis, leaving behind his family during the height of World War II. Because he died during the War, during a time when everyone was concentrating on the pure act of survival, many of his stories died along with him. Even my dad, who was 15 at the time of his father’s death, didn’t know much of his father’s life. I’ve found, that sadly, the old folks didn’t talk much about their lives and the younger generation didn’t feel it was important to ask. Nowadays, these stories would be so precious to have and to be able to pass down to future generations.

When my dad’s younger brother (the one born in America) turned 18, he was asked to come back to the USA to serve his military duty. I think he did his military duty  up in Alaska, but unfortunately, I’m not really sure of the details. I believe this was during the Korean War. After his military stint, he decided to try his luck in San Francisco (remember, they had an uncle there who owned a restaurant). My dad’s brother met his future wife and settled in SF, never returning to Italy.

Now back to Italy and my dad! My dad was a successful soccer player but he was getting older, and knowing that he couldn’t play soccer forever, he was searching for a change in his life. Italy was still depressed and trying to recover from the devastations of war. There wasn’t much in the way of jobs, and things were not looking too prosperous. He was already engaged to my mom and asked her, if he were to go to America, would she follow? Being young and in love, my mom told him that she would follow him wherever he went! He presented her with an engagement ring and told her he would go to America to scope things out. He promised he’d come back to marry her. And if things were good, he’d bring her back with him to the USA. My mom made a promise to the Virgin Mary that if he truly came back for her, she would give her ring to the Madonna! But she also gave him a one year ultimatum – she wouldn’t wait longer than one year! Back then, men came to America and never went back! My dad decided that he wanted to go to San Francisco, since he had a brother and an uncle already there. My dad left Genoa aboard the Andrea Doria in March of 1955.  My mom, my father’s aunt, and two of his best friends went to see him off. One of his friends was so upset to see him go, that he ran after the ship as far as he could go.

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Upon boarding the ship, my dad felt great! He said the ship was so much fun – he played cards and ate and drank to his heart’s content. As soon as it exited the Straits of Gibralter, though, things took a turn for the worse. My dad ended up getting so sea sick that he wasn’t able to get out of his bunk for the entire 2 weeks of voyage to New York. During this time, he wrote letters to my mom telling her that he wished he could die.

Upon setting foot on shore in New York, he immediately felt better – and hungry! I’m sure he ate something right away, but he also shared a fellow passengers’ yummy Italian treats! I’m not sure how long he spent in New York, but he needed to take a cross-country train to Oakland/San Francisco. He was under the impression that the train he boarded in New York would take him all the way – whoops! No one told him that he would have to change trains in Chicago. When the train stopped in Chicago, he had to scramble to find out where he needed to go for his connection. Not speaking English, he was definitely quite confused. Luckily for him, a member of the Armed Services came to his aid and directed him to where he needed to go. He made the connection and continued his journey to Oakland/San Francisco, where he was united with his brother.

Upon arriving, he lived in a small basement apartment in the same building as his brother. He wrote at least three letters a week to my mom telling her how much he missed her and loved her. They would occasionally make dates for a phone call, a complicated and, often times, frustrating experience. There were very few telephones in their little home town in Italy, and whenever my mom knew that my dad would try to call her because he had made a date with her in his letters, she had to find herself at that location. The place that she chose was the new “supermarket” in town. The owners of this market were probably just as excited as she was whenever she went over to receive the call from America! They quickly became close to this young woman who’s boyfriend was so far away. The calls themselves were difficult because most of the time the connection was so poor that all they could really say to each other was how much they loved and missed each other. When my mom sees the communication nowadays, and sees how I chat to my cousins in Italy via Skype, Face Time, etc. she just shakes her head and says how nice it would have been if she would have been able to have that during those years that her and my dad were apart.

My father went to work as a dishwasher in his uncle’s restaurant and slowly learned the workings of the restaurant business. My dad went from the pampered life of an athlete to being a dishwasher! He never complained and took the blisters and sores as a badge of honor. He realized that the USA presented a lot of opportunities, and so he decided that he liked it and would bring his future wife here. Vowing never to set foot on a ship again, he saved fervently for a flight back home. Air travel was super expensive in those days and he had to work and save for months in order to afford the trip. But after only 3 months of being here, he sent word that he was coming home to marry his sweetheart. Plans were made and a wedding was planned for the day after Christmas 1955.

Book Review: More Than A Soldier

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More Than a Soldier

 

A few weeks ago, I posted a spotlight of the book More Than A Soldier by D.M. Annechino.

D.M. Annechino

At that time, I had not read the book yet. Reading the excerpt, I was anxious to actually read the entire story – it sounded so fascinating. I’m happy to report that I just finished reading it (and I read it in record speed)! It was excellent! The writing style was such that you felt like you were experiencing all the emotions that Army Ranger Angelo Di Marco did while he was fighting in combat as well as trying to survive as a fugitive from the Nazis. His heartaches at losing his fellow Army Rangers, and his worries for his own survival and those of his comrades, were so real that the words touched my heart. This is an amazing story of determination, strength, courage and hope – as well as devastation and desperation. It’s also a story of love – the love that he felt for his family and for his fellow servicemen. The bonds that connected him to everyone, including those kind Italians that helped him survive, were so strong and beautiful. Knowing that this is a true story is all the more poignant and meaningful. I’m so glad that Angelo decided to share this amazing story before he passed away, as it is a story not to be forgotten. I can highly recommend this book as a great historical account of World War II – I very much enjoyed the humanity of this story.

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More Than a Soldier: One Army Ranger’s Daring Escape from the Nazis

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More Than a Soldier

Feeling a patriotic duty to defend his country after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor,
seventeen year old, Angelo J. DiMarco, enlists in the U.S. Army. Severely short
of frontline fighters, the Army rushes Angelo through Ranger training and sends
him to Italy as part of the 1st Ranger Battalion. Their objective: stop the German invasion.

Fighting on the front lines in Italy, the German’s teach Angelo a sobering lesson on life when they capture him during the bloody battle of Cisterna. Against
insurmountable odds, Angelo miraculously escapes in a way that stretches the
imagination. He survives behind enemy lines for over five months, hiding from
the Germans and trying to outmaneuver them. He begs for food, sleeps in barns
and suffers from many ailments, including dehydration, malnutrition, malaria and
exposure to the elements.

More Than a Soldier is Angelo DiMarco’s powerful story of survival, resilience and
courage.

Where to Buy the Book:  ​Amazon ​

Annechino colorfully draws the actions scenes, and richly brings the supporting cast of characters to life. A moving tale of survival in war-torn Europe.  ~Kirkus Reviews

Nuanced and eloquently written, More Than a Soldier adds to the body of WWII literature an extraordinary story of survival and a deeply affecting portrait of a
soldier’s coming-of-age. ~The iRead Review

D.M. Annechino

Daniel M. Annechino, a former book editor, wrote his first book, How to Buy the Most Car for the Least Money, while working as a General Manager in the automobile business. But his passion had always been fiction, particularly thrillers. He spent two years researching serial killers before finally penning his gripping
and memorable debut novel They Never Die Quietly. He has written and published
five novels—all thrillers. But his latest work, More Than a Soldier, is a
Historical Biography set in Italy during WWII.

A native of New York, Annechino now lives in San Diego with his wife, Jennifer. He
loves to cook, enjoys a glass of vintage wine, and spends lots of leisure time
on the warm beaches of Southern California.

Guest Post by Daniel Annechino: The Life of an Author

An ex-workmate of mine who I haven’t seen since I quit my “traditional job” seven years ago contacted me the other day because he’s writing a novel and is looking for some direction. He asked me a bunch of questions that I did my best to answer, questions about grammar, editing, literary agents, and getting published. As I typed away, I realized that not one of his questions concerned marketing or promotion. This led me to believe that many aspiring writers—through no fault of their own—have no idea what the life of an author is like.

There was a time many years ago when an author did three things: They wrote. They read. They participated in book signings. But in this day and age, an age of e-books, the Internet, social media and self-publishing, writers spend more time marketing themselves than actually writing. Unless you’re a well-known author with an established following like Stephen King, Michael Connelly, or Patricia Cornwell, promoting yourself may actually be more important than what you’re promoting. In other words, “the sizzle is more important than the steak”. Buzz is everything and buzz sells books.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve learned a great deal about the complicated world of writing. Although I have a long, long way to go before I could even begin to think of myself as a successful author (at least based on my lofty expectations), each and every day I must manage my blog and frequently add new posts. Admittedly, I’ve not given my website the attention it deserves, but I do my best. I have to maintain a presence on many of the popular writers’ blogs. And perhaps most important, I must be visible on Facebook and Twitter and network as much as I can. I have to promote my book(s) and myself every-single-day.

To be honest, I’m not really fond of marketing and promoting. I wish all that was necessary to become a successful writer was to write. But that is not the way of the world; at least not in the year 2017. So, even though it pains me and gobbles up more of my day than it should, the new world of writing holds me hostage. Before you even think about publishing a book, do some homework and learn to understand the business of writing.

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La Befana Vien’di Notte….Trullalla!

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I posted this a few years ago….and wanted to share it again for a nice Holiday tradition!

Tonight’s the night….are your stockings hung?  All over Italy, children are awaiting the loot they will find when The Befana comes to visit.  And all women are getting ready for their day….or are they?  There’s always the question if being wished “Auguri” tomorrow is a good thing or not, since La Befana is an ugly old witch….and does it mean that whoever is wishing us cheer is thinking we are like La Befana?  Quite a dilemma, huh?  The story of La Befana is a cute one, and you can read about it on my post here:  La Befana by Tesoro Treasures.

But today, I wanted to share a fun little song from 1978, sung by the great Gianni Morandi, about La Befana.

Enjoy!

Trullalla, Trullalla!

The Befana comes at night

With shoes all broken

With a sock

Around her neck

With carbon, with iron, with brass.

On her broom

To fly

She comes from the sea, She comes from the sea.

And the snow shall fall

On the deserts of Maharaja

From Alaska to Canada.

She’ll need to leave

And she’ll sing while she leaves.

She’ll dress like a woman from the South

And with the sock she’ll arrive.

The storm will win,

And she’ll sing “Trullalla”

The Befana will arrive…

Trullalla…Trullalla!

A child,

The size of a little mouse,

Inserted himself in the chimney

To see her closeup.

When she arrives,

The Befana,

Without teeth,

Jumps and dances for some wime.

Then, hiding, she backs away

With the night stuck to her skirt.

And a warm wind will blow

on the deserts of the Maharaja

From Alaska to Canada.

Only one star will shine,

and she’ll have to follow it

to fly towards the North..

and the road is long, but

the storm will win.

And singing Trullalla

The Befana will go.

The Park of Monsters

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I subscribe to  Atlas Obscura’s facebook page, and just today this video popped up on my feed. The timing was perfect as the book I just reviewed, Michelangelo’s Ghost, takes place here in this park located a little outside of Rome. I had never heard of this place, and now, within a few days of each other, I heard about it twice! It sounds like it might be a very interesting place to visit – what do you think?