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Christmas 2017, Dear Friends

Dear Family and Friends,

This year there will be no Christmas mustache. I do not refer to my face. I refer to our hearth, which Tizi has adorned the past few years with a horizontal wreath. In the off-season she collects holiday greenery and reddery. She’ll say, “Hey, let’s stop at English Gardens.” Definitely my idea of a good time. We come out of the store loaded with artificial poinsettia blossoms, faux holly branches laden with berries, assorted sprigs and stems, fronds and vines, shoots and peduncles. In prior years, bent over these decorative riches, she lashed together a long, narrow pastiche of holiday flora that, to my eye, looked like a festive Snidely Whiplash mustache. Same ingredients this year, except more; less linear, more rectangular arrangement. Suitable for framing. Continue reading

In the Context of Love, a review


The first scene tells us so much.

In Linda Sienkiewicz’s novel, In the Context of Love, in the very first scene a woman and her two children visit the husband-father in prison. The encounter is shot through with awkwardness: bewildered children, humiliated wife, appalling institutional sterility. “The four of us sat at a metal table,” the narrator, Angelica Lowsley, observes, “falling into the same seating arrangement we used to take at the dinner table.” Gavin, the husband, tries to make small talk, tries to connect with his children, while Angelica tries to control her rage at her husband, at the situation, at what her life has become. This is a context of love. Rock bottom. Continue reading

The Cheese of Forgiveness


don oreste benzi

Asked how I feel today, I’ll say, “Fresh as a fish.”

It’s a figure of speech I heard on the TV yesterday. The program examined the quality and safety of fish from the Adriatic. We were at an inland restaurant eating brassato, a braised beef dish our friend Lidia makes. At noon, for the workers who come for lunch, Lidia turns on TV news. The focus was on fish. This was long-form journalism. Three journalists in a studio were importantly holding forth, along with reporters and scientists in the field hoisting octopi aloft by their tentacles, displaying crates of sole, mussels, and clams; a full half-hour expose on fish. Given my limited fish vocabulary, I couldn’t follow much of what they were saying. I recognized a few fish names; every so often I heard inquinamenti, the Italian word for pollutants. Continue reading