Politics – Quirky Aside

Basta! Non Voglio Eolico! 

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Enough!  I do not want to see another ugly wind mill on one Southern Italian Mountain!  They are putting up more and more around Pontelandolfo, Casalduni and Morcone.  What I discovered is that the local community doesn’t benefit one iota from the ugly things.  I thought they could tax the landowner – who is getting rent.  Or the town got a piece of the revenue generated – or even a break on the electric bill.  Nada.  Niente.  Nothing.

Those of you who have followed me for a while know that I have been talking about the turbines for a number of years.  First I thought they were wonderful.  Than, I thought they we’re ruining the south’s chance to get a piece of the tourism pie.  I mean would you want to sit on the terrace of a charming agriturismo and stare at the whizzing blades and hear the ongoing whoosh of the colossal metal whirligigs?  Now, my anger has intensified – they are defiling mountain top grazing lands.  The mega corporations are the only winners.

My ire increased last summer when Jack and I finished a mini vacation in Northern Italy.  We drove on A7 through the mountains in Liguria and noticed high tension electric lines transmitting power but not one giant windmill between Milan and Genoa. Not one.   Staring out the windows I realized that I also hadn’t see one gargantuan whirling edifice in the hills surrounding Lago Como, any where in the regions of Lombardia, Toscana or Lazio! Hmm, the trees were flowing in the wind.  Perhaps that was an anomaly. Obviously, the wind has stopped blowing in Northern Italy.  I’ll bet those ski slopes never feel the slightest breeze.  The hills of Rome must cry for a breath of wind. Years ago cute Dutch looking windmills were used in Montefiesole, Tuscana for the salt production industry. But now, there obviously isn’t enough wind now to generate electricity or blow out a match.

We are tired of the disparity and don’t want to take it anymore!

The residents of Morcone are taking a lesson from the Dakota Pipeline.  On February 14th, they decided to peacefully stop the building of windmills on yet another ridge.  A mountain that for hundreds of years has been grazing land for large herds of white cattle and its rich soil farmed.  Stalwart citizens stood in the road blocking access to the bulldozers and mammoth drills.  Pleadings, negotiations and dialogue have been going on for years.  The mayors have gone to Naples championing the cause but no one seems to care what happens in the Province of Benevento’s mountains.

Saturday, February 11 environmental groups and local residents organized a sit-in on the mountains outside Morcone.  They wanted to draw attention to the abject devastation that occurs to a mountain by the savage and seemingly careless construction.  Complaints had been submitted to Comando Stazione Carabinieri Forestale di Pontelandolfo, Comunità Montana Titerno e Alto Tammaro the Carabinieri Command of Pontelandolfo and the Prosecutor’s Office of Benevento siting irregularities and asking for urgent intervention and suspension of work in progress. These arguments apparently had no impact.

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Photo by Pupo in Pontelandolfo News

So, on Valentine’s Day morning mountain farmers, ranchers and citizens stood in the way not of progress but of the degradation of the Sannio hills.

Pontelandolfo News  has a great article full of interesting yet depressing data on how the south gets screwed again – this time it seems by the politicians. (How unusual, she said with great rancor.)

American newspapers have not picked up on this political  travesty.
Errrrrggggggg.

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Perché la Strada Più Comoda Per Andare A Votare È Chiusa.

Maybe it is because I grew up in New Jersey where political manipulation runs rampant.  Or maybe it is because I remember the Chicago of Mayor Daley.  Or maybe it is because at this point in my life I’m cynical and see corruption and conspiracy behind lots of doors.  Whatever the reason,something happened today that made me angrier than hell.

Today, Sunday, April 17 is voting day in Italy.  There is only one item on the ballot.  Thank you Wikipedia for laying it out – 

A referendum on oil and natural gas drilling will be held in Italy on 17 April 2016.[1] The referendum proposes repealing the law that allows gas and oil drilling concessions extracting Hydrocarbon within 12 nautical miles of the Italian coast to be prolonged until the exhaustion of the useful life of the fields.

It will be the first referendum requested by at least five Regional Councils in the history of the Italian Republic: all the previous 66 referendum questions since 1974 were required after collection of signatures of citizens. 

So this is green legislation, and doesn’t make big oil companies happy, I’m guessing skids can be greased.  Look at the skids greased in Washington.  Here is what pissed me off.  My niece is here and wanted to vote.  She needed to get a tessera elettorale – like a voters registration card.  Because of the election, the municipio was open. Now there are two ways to walk there – which is also how you walk to the polling place. One is the lower easy walking medieval viale – which takes un-athletic me five minutes. The second requires legs of steal, is up hill and longer.  Guess which road was closed? You got it, we walked the lower road and came to a temporary barricade that closed the road. Of course, we walked around it! Because we did not see anything wrong with the road, we continued on. A group of young men were right behind us. Eventually, however, we came to barricades that were a fixed between two buildings.  One of the young men leaped over it and offered to help us over it.  We were 30 seconds from the municipal building.  Since I didn’t want to give them hernias, we walked back the way we came.  There was no way I could walk up the other street.  Alex grabbed a pal and went on.

Here is my conspiracy theory.  In researching, before I voted absentee a few weeks ago in the USA, I discovered –

Il referendum è valido se si raggiunge il quorum ovvero se un determinato numero di persone si reca a votare.

That essentially means the referendum is only valid if a quorum of Italian citizens who are able to vote – actually vote!  So if car-less folks want to walk they can’t.  I mean they can, but is more difficult. If you want to easily access the municipal building you can’t.  So, less people vote and maybe then there isn’t the necessary quorum for the referendum.  I wonder if there are some types of road blocks to voting in lots of town? 

Here is a road block that happened to my sister and I. We got our absentee ballots and noted you voted Si or No.  Just like double negatives have peppered American referendums, we immediately thought – we don’t want those rigs off our coast we will vote no!  Oops, it is a vote to “repeal” the law so we would have to vote yes.  Even some Italians I spoke to here agree that if you are not paying attention it is easy to get confused. 

Just like the majority of windmills- which now predominant some vistas are in the south and appear absent in the north – it looked like most of the drilling is in the south. Hmm.

After I took a breath I thought, maybe it is not a conspiracy – maybe they repaired the road 4 months ago and forgot to take the barriers down.  I mean, Questa è Italia.

PS. My niece was told she couldn’t vote because she lives abroad and even though she was here in person, she should have voted absentee. One less body count toward a quorum.

Ci vediamo.

Categories: Politics - Quirky Aside | Tags: , | 1 Comment

USA Citizens Vote While Overseas!!

With all the lunacy of the primary elections spinning and whirling around me, I knew that Jack and I had to be able to vote in this year’s New Jersey primary election.​  Since we will be in Italy in June and the mail from the United States to Italy is notoriously slow – I didn’t want to risk a mail-in absentee ballot. What is a political junky voting citizen to do?  

My pal George, who lives in The Netherlands, said that he goes to the American Consulate. Hmmm, do I have to go Naples?  Being a politically savvy chick, I knew just who to call – the Board of Elections!   What – I’m wrong?  I have to call the County Clerk?  Done. I called the Somerset County, NJ clerk’s office and discovered that U.S. Citizens who are out of the country can vote electronically!  Who knew?!

First stop –  Web site : FVAP.gov  Federal Voting Assistance Program 
A quick trip to the web site made me realize that it was not only possible but probable that I would be voting this June from Pontelandolfo!  Go Democracy – huzaah! 

Here is how it works – 

1. You must register and request an absentee ballot in your state of legal residence. Right – you can’t vote  in Oregan and then vote absentee AGAIN from Europe. You complete what is called the federal post card application – it looks nothing like a post card.  

Hmm, I thought, filling it out online looks pretty simple. POP, up came a privacy statement – click – I accepted the privacy act statement. That means people get to see who I vote for. Who cares – ask me who I voted for and I’ll tell you. 

The form took forever because once again the big zip code data base in cyberspace would not recognize my zip code. Flagtown has had its own zip code long before Hillsborough coalesced into a quasi community with a post office and zip code. I fought the system and then hung my head and used the Hillsborough zip code.

2. Print and finish your federal post card application. Easy. 

3. Next from wherever you are mail the form set to your local election office. This part was a little Squirrley.  You can only send it back on USA sized 8 1/2 by 11 paper. Then mail it in a number 10 envelope. Now, if you’re in Europe where the hell do you easily get the paper or the envelope. The directions say that using European standard paper you need to print the document at 96% of its normal size. On the website they then give you a template to make your own envelope.  You also need to note that you cannot have scotch tape on the envelope. So I’m confused, if you’re going to download an envelope and make an envelope do you have to find a recipe for paste?

Since we are still in New Jersey we will be hand delivering our 81/2 X 11 postcard. 

My ballot will be emailed to me. I hope I can email my response back. The county clerk office said I could. Wouldn’t it be great if all of us could vote electronically. 

But if you don’t get your ballot what can you possibly do? Guess what you can go online and using the federal rights in absentee ballot you are able to vote or you can pick up a hardcopy version from your nearest US Embassy or Consulate location. I got bored reading about it and hope we don’t have to do this. Apparently there are a number of questions that you’ve got to work your way through. Ugh. 

I am confident that I will get my ballot. I will do my dad proud and vote in the Democratic primary. I will do my home country proud and vote in the general election. 

Huzaah!

Categories: Politics - Quirky Aside, Practical Matters - Living Abroad | 8 Comments

Not In My Backyard!

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Windmill Pollution – UGGGGGGG – They are Everywhere!

Cripes Midge, you are a liberal Democrat and always err on the side of the greater good what the hell do you mean NIMBY?  Why are all the f’n windmills going up in Southern Italy!!!  Energia eolica – power generated by the wind – is a grand and noble idea.  I just don’t want to look at another bloody giant windmill.  They are cropping up like weeds on every hill in Campania.  Last year, I saw the wind farms from afar and thought them noble and wonderful.  Italy was going green – great!  I made a cute video and gushed about the inroads Italy was making on renewable energy.  Here’s the link:  http://wp.me/p3rc2m-8h

The Associazione Nazionale Energia del Vento – ANEV has a great map on their website!  Pull it down and look where the windmills are!  Yup, not near the ski resorts in the rich north but in the south.  Come on – go look –  http://www.anev.org/

The European Commission – way back in 2001 – set a goal for Italy to obtain at least 25% of its electricity form renewable sources by 2010.   The Italian government targeted 12,000 MW by 2020. Does it all have to be  windmills? How about a nice solar field on the mountains they don’t obstruct the views?

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We SEE Them Rising to the Sky Near Our House and Shudder.

Now, even when we sit on our balcony in Pontelandolfo I see windmills.  More and more every month!  The hills are alive with the sound of bzzzzzzzzz.  According to a recent article in Il Sannio – our local paper will soon be enjoying even more.  http://www.ilsannioquotidiano.it/attualita/item/19265-eolico-multinazionali-scatenate-altre-richieste-di-autorizzazioni.html

La società di Bolzano ha depositato un progetto per realizzare un parco da 56 Mw tra Pontelandolfo e Morcone.

Now, leaving Pontelandolfo and driving south through Puglia, I’m staring out the windows looking for trulli (round huts with a conical roof) and all I see are fields of windmills.  There are so many on SS55  that I thought I was on the New Jersey Turnpike in the middle of an industrial zone.  I know, I know it is good for the farmer – he gets paid rent for the land.  It is good for the planet.  But the more I read it seems like it’s really good for the banks who have the notes, the businessmen who get the cash from the EU and of course the mob.

Windmill Puglia

Right Near the Highway – Behind a Rest Stop

Take a gander at this article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2356879/Italian-mafia-turns-wind-farm-investment-launder-money-benefit-EU-subsidies.html  Here is the opening paragraph:

The mafia is ramping up investment in wind farms to launder criminal earnings and benefit from generous EU subsidies, a report by Europe’s policing agency has warned.

Attracted by generous EU and state handouts, and coupled with lax controls, the Europol analysis found that Italian  gangsters are increasingly  seeing renewable energy as easy pickings.

So all I”m saying is Not In My Backyard!

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo, Politics - Quirky Aside | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Italian Elections 2014 – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

This super long link will tell you what is now happening politically in Italy.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/10856075/EU-election-2014-Italys-Renzi-triumphs-as-comic-Grillo-loses-ground.html

I’ll tell you what I observed from my table in the piazza.

Sipping caffè one day and attempting to read Il Sannio, the local newspaper, I nearly choked on a headline.  Gli sconti per chi vuole spostarsi in treno in auto o in aereo (discounts for those who want to travel by train by car or by plane).  For folks to get back to their home towns to vote there are heavy discounts on travel!  There was a 60% discount on regional trains, 70% on national trains, 60% for travel by sea and the one that really kicked me in the ass – a 40 euro reimbursement for air travel.  Now my ticket on May first was a hell of a lot more than 40 euros but my niece in London could have flown over for the weekend for practically nothing.  Maybe they don’t do absentee ballots or they just like to have folks come home once a year.  This is definitely a good thing!

Another good thing is the short campaign season. I can’t find any on line resources to validate what folks have told me but it seems that candidates and parties can only campaign for one month.  Yeah!  No political BS for years in advance of an election.  Here, it is simply signs on the approved village sign boards and visiting folks in their homes.

This is the actor/comic Beppo Grillo's party.

This is the actor/comic Beppe Grillo’s party. He lost but had cute signs.

My landlord did get mail from parties but only one from each – not a thousand from each and no robo calls! How civilized.

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Notice the palm card – well 4 palm cards – with the X through the icon – in case you forget how.

 

What’s bad? A hefty percentage of the people I surveyed in Pontelandolfo were not going to bother to vote.  “Why – what does the EU do for me?”  “Politics – it doesn’t matter they are all the same.”  It was interesting for me to hear this laconic attitude.  Last year when the election was totally local it seemed like everyone in the commune came out to vote – and they practically did. When I went to the polls this year I was the only one in my district’s room.  Good news is I didn’t have to wait.  According to AGI.it – there was a nationwide drop in voters for this particular election:

(AGI) Rome, May 26 – Turnout in Italy for the European election on Sunday fell to 57.22 of percent of eligible voters from 65.87 percent in 2009, when polls also remained open on Monday morning. 

Here is some of the ugly.  One afternoon, I thought I was in Hudson County, NJ.  Men at the next table were listening to a recording on a cell phone and getting angrier and angrier.  They played it a couple of times – it was hard to eavesdrop with all that cursing but…  In a local race at a village whose name I didn’t catch, a candidate was calling people and literally threatening their jobs.  Being a middle aged white woman and obviously harmless, I asked what the men were upset about and they told me.  Some creep was calling older voters and telling them he would insure they lost their government jobs and never get another job unless they voted for his party.  My question was how the hell would anyone know who you voted for?  Paper ballots – you hand write a person’s name on paper ballots.  The villages are so small and there are so few folks that vote in a district that you can figure out who voted for you especially if they use the mark.  The mark?  You are told how to write the person’s name – I’m not kidding here this is what they told me.  Like, I’ll steal your cow unless you write me in as MiDge.  They tell the next old dude to write it midGe.  Since challengers get to review all ballots too……  This is pretty ugly. Uglier than anything I’ve heard of in NJ which can get pretty ugly.  How is that bridgegate scandal doing?

 

Yes, I voted. My dad ingrained that in my brain.  In Pontelandolfo we were only voting for the party who would send representatives to the EU.  We vote in the provincial high school – it is a specialty school for jewelry design.  Talk about good artsy vibes on election day.

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This picture was from last year’s election. Yesterday there wasn’t a line nor a policeman.

I went into district two, showed them my voting card, carta identita and like last year started to give them my passport when the election worker said “we know you.”  H’mm is that good or bad?  They handed me a pencil and a piece of paper.  Horrifying the pool workers, I started to put my mark right there and stuff the box.  I mean all you have to do is put an X across the icon of the party.  They pointed me to my secure screened space, I made my X and then stuffed the paper ballot in the box.  There are no hanging chads you literally make an X over an icon.  I am a good cittadini.  I vote early and often.  Look – I had my voter ID card stamped to prove it!

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See – I officially voted! Weeeeoooo!

 

 

 

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Zia Caterina and F.D.R.

Time to tell  Zia Caterina’ s tale of  Eleanor and Franklin Delano Roosevelt –

It’s presidential!

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt in...

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt in Warm Springs, Georgia – NARA – 195635 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is the tale of my dad’s older sister, Caterina Guerrera’s, journey on the rocky road to the American dream.  You may remember my Aunt Cat from the earlier blog about my family’s Ellis Island experience – https://nonnasmulberrytree.com/2013/09/18/nonna-comes-to-america/.

Two-year old Caterina Guerrera was racing over the hills of Pontelandolfo talking as fast as the village’s babbling brooks.  Then the world stopped.  This peasant child was stricken with polio.   Her mother put hot stones on her limbs, massaged and massaged.  One of the reasons the family came to America was that my nonna, Maria Rosaria Solla, was afraid that Caterina would end up in an institution for the insane and deformed.  Caterina was smart and fought hard and seven years later was able to board the ship in Naples for America.

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Charcoal Drawing done in Italy.
Maria Rosaria Solla, Savatore, Caterina, Francesco and Nicola Guerrera

When nine-year old Caterina entered her first American school she discovered just how quick a learner she was. In those days immigrant kids didn’t have the benefit of  bi-lingual education or ESL – it was total immersion.   On the happy little girl’s first day of school the teacher said something –  Caterina looked at her and  smiled – the other kids put their heads on their desks.  Suddenly the teacher’s yard stick whacked Caterina on the back of the head.  Aunt Cat  figured out immediately what the English phrase “put your head down” meant.

Polio left her with a short right leg, “baby sized” arm and marked limp.  Because of her jaunty walk – step and drag the dead leg, kids would call her 1 and 2 and.  She swore to me it didn’t phase her – that they were just teasing. Bottom line, she remembered and replayed the story tape for me.

At that point in time, folks who were disabled were often hidden away. Well no one was hiding Caterina Guererra – “Guerrera” does mean female warrior. She was a fighter, often protecting herself and her younger brother, Salvatore,  by tossing rocks squarely at all taunters.  Eventually, the family  moved to a small farm in the Flagtown, section of Hillsborough Township, New Jersey.  A number of other Italian families had settled in Flagtown – this was the depression and members of this tight knit community helped each other.

Flagtown house

Fifteen acres for nonna to farm with Catherine’s help.

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Grandma and Aunt Cat tend the garden to feed us all.

She graduated from Somerville High School in June of 1933 and then attended Drake College (business course – 6 months).  Catherine  wasn’t going to let anyone hold her back.  After attending secretarial school and pounding the pavements looking for work, the only job she could get was in a sewing factory in Bound Brook – cleaning.  With her shriveled right arm that hung like a dead branch and a right leg that didn’t work at all,  she picked up dropped pieces of cloth so the ladies sewing wouldn’t have to take the time to bend down.   Catherine took the train every day, angry that her active brain was mildewing in a sweatshop.  There had to be something better – mannaggia this was America!

The President during this period of American history was, Franklin D. Roosevelt,  also a victim of polio – something he hid well.  Roosevelt overcame his affliction and Catherine felt she would too.  He had helped all kinds of folks during the great depression.  Including her brother, Salvatore, who traveled across America improving our park lands with the the other poor young men of the Civilian Conservation Corp.  The CCC was just one of the programs that were instituted under the “New Deal” moniker. The  Works Progress Administration was one of my favorite programs.  Jobless Americans built buildings, bridges, schools.  More importantly artists, writers, musicians and theatre professionals were included in the WPA.  WPA art can still be seen in public spaces around the country.

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CCC Camp in Hackettstown, NJ 1935 –
Uncle Sal is 6th from the left – front row!

 

“It is only in recent years that we have come to realize the true significance of the problem of our crippled children. There are so many more of them than we had any idea of. In many sections there are thousands who are not only receiving no help but whose very existence has been unknown to the doctors and health services.”  Radio Address on President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s First Birthday Ball for Crippled Children      January 30, 1934 

Aunt Cat saw that Roosevelt also was instrumental in raising funds for polio treatment and creating the innovative use of hydrotherapy  with polio patients in Warm Springs, Georgia.  This plucky young lady sat down and penned a letter to the Roosevelts.

This is how my Aunt Cat told the story to me:

I wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt. My friend Libby (Elizabeth Quick) thought I was pazzo – why would the president’s wife listen to a “guinea” from Flagtown, NJ?  My father and Mr. De Angelis started the Democratic Club here.  All the Dutch farmers were Republican.  I wrote 20 different letters and finally got it right.  I sent it.

One day – I was giving Mary the horse some hay – and then a big black car pulled in the yard and sent the chickens running.  This woman got out of the car and showed me some papers.  She came from the state and she said that she was going to take me to see a doctor who could maybe help me walk better.  My father was working and my mother was at Mrs. Gallo’s – Julie’s mother – I told my brother, Tony, to tell mama I was going to see a doctor and I got in the car.  If someone could help me walk without dragging my leg like a mail sack than I was going.  What I didn’t know was that the doctor was in Newark – in those days you only had Route 28 and it took 2 hours to get to Newark.  She took me to Beth Israel Hospital – Dr. Henry H. Kessler himself saw me and asked me if I was strong.  He said it would take 8 surgeries but he could make me walk better and my bad arm wouldn’t just hang like a dead branch.  He laughed when I told him that I milked the goats and cows, plowed the field following Mary the horse and dragged my leg the ½ mile to the train stop to go work in the sewing factory – strong – I was strong.  I was old enough to sign the papers and the next thing I knew I was in a huge room lined with beds – in those days you slept in a bed in a ward with 40 other beds.  I wasn’t even afraid.  Dr. Kessler had this way about him – he cared – like the Roosevelt’s.  Dr. Kessler fixed my arm first.  I had 9 surgeries.  After the first surgery, Dr. Kessler asked the nurse why no one ever came to visit me.  Even then he knew that you had to treat the whole person – not just be an orthopedic mechanic.   He asked me if I had any family.  I told him my family lived in Flagtown – which to him was like living in Appalachia.  I had left with the social worker and never went home.  I thought she told my mother.

Dr. Kessler asked me if I wanted to use the telephone and call them.  You didn’t have a phone in the depression unless you were rich.  So I wrote them a letter and told them where I was – the boys could read in English – as soon as they got the letter they came.  Mama was furious that I would not let them take me home – but after all the surgery and I could walk she stopped being angry.

I have never voted for a Republican. They still are for the rich – look at Bush and the oil people.  Bush wouldn’t send someone to help a girl with polio unless he could get something.  What did Mr. Roosevelt get?  A thank you letter from me, a girl whose father laid railroad ties and whose mother kept us eating by her garden and animals.  

She was soon – well not that soon – I mean nine surgeries is a big deal –  back in the fields, passing her driving test on the first try – her macho brothers couldn’t do that –  and looking for work.   Then a miracle happened – the federal government decided that a post office was to be set up in Flagtown.  Whoever ran it wouldn’t get a salary but a commission on what postage was sold. (Damn, an entrepreneurial helping hand at no cost to the government – who’d have thought!) The whoever – thanks again to the helpful Roosevlet hand – was Catherine (AKA Caterina) Guerrera. At first she didn’t want to do it – a commission – who wants to work on commission.   Her dad, Francesco convinced her to take the new position.  In Italy it was an honor to be the postmaster.  

On March 26, 1943, Frank C. Walker Postmaster General of the United States of America appointed Catherine Guerrera Postmaster at Flagtown in the County of Somerset, State of New Jersey.  Originally she worked out of a shack near the rail road tracks.  Then her entrepreneurial brain started twirling.  Due to her personality, more people were buying stamps and the little postal stop was growing.  Why not own the building?  She got a parcel of ground from her dad and with her brothers help built a post office that she rented to the government.  To this day my cousins rent the newer version to the postal service.

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She also ran a small lending library and smaller general store out of the space.

She then marketed the hell out of that little rural post office and by the time she retired in 1980 – at a vital aged 69 – had built it up to a first-class post-office. (This designation is no longer used by the postal service.) The building also grew.  From that one room rural oasis to a solid facility with an accompanying luncheonette and two apartments.  She had a vision and watched it grow.  Cha- ching!

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From one room to many! That is my Aunt Cat.

Every story has a moment of sadness.  Catherine Guerrera  had been Post Master for forty years and hated that forced retirement.   In 1984 – four years after retiring – the dreaded polio returned – post polio syndrome.  I blamed the forced retirement – she was no longer lifting and chucking huge mail bags, standing and sorting mail, bending to talk to children.  This time she had the resources to get the best of care at NYU’s Institute of Rehab Medicine under the guidance of Dr. Kristjan Ragnarsson.  It took a while, but after a good number of months in New York learning how to deal with a wheel chair, take in the sights of the city from a little bit lower perspective and outfitted for new braces she was back to her “give ’em hell” self.

This great American Dream story demonstrates to all those non-believers – that a little bit of government assistance can jump start a life.  And – for those of  you who are died in the wool conservatives – her estate taxes more than paid off Uncle Sam for all his – I mean Roosevelt’s – help.

My fabulous Aunt Cat taught me that hard work, hope and being a Democrat was the American thing to do.

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She’s still batting for us!

Categories: Finding My Family, Politics - Quirky Aside | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Final Push – Elections in Pontelandolfo

THIRTY DAYS!  A scant 30 days to tell the world you are running for office!  How bloody civilized!  In the USA the campaign season never ends.  One election is over and the slow news channels start tossing names to the wind for the next series of elections.  Here, candidates by law have exactly 30 (THIRTY) days to pitch themselves.  Friends of ours who are ex-pats in Ecuador told me the same rule applies there.  Thirty days to tell us about yourself.  if you can’t make a pitch in 30 days you shouldn’t be pitching.The concept was a little unnerving for me – especially on the 2 (TWO) election days.  There was no little job I could do.  No elderly folks to drive to the polls.  No bars to roll drunks out of.  No cemeteries to pull names off of.  Damn, what is a Jersey Girl supposed to do?  Well, what everyone else did.  Go vote!

Standing, waiting, and watching.

Standing, waiting, and watching.

Candidates stood together chatting as a team in front of the polling places  – even Ripley would not believe this – candidates did not approach a single voter!  They didn’t toss a palm card at them or kiss their kids!  But I am getting ahead of myself.  Let’s talk about the last few of those thirty days.

The “list” that we were following did continue it’s door to door press.  “Facsimile” ballots were distributed with an X through the right circle.  Yes, I will admit I carried mine into the polling place with me.  They also reminded people to come to the piazza  on the Friday night before the Sunday election.  You heard me – SUNDAY – the polls were open from 8:00 AM until 10:00 PM.  Monday they were open from 8:00 AM until 3:00 PM.  Friday night was the last legal night to campaign.  Saturday was the day when people were to think about what they heard, reflect and get ready to vote on Sunday.  Now, can I attest that no one campaigned  – nah – and neither would you !  I will tell you that the candidate that I knew best was home with her family on Saturday and insisted there was no campaigning.

Friday night I went to the piazza not knowing what to expect.  A balcony above the square had a sound system, electronic keyboard and podium.  The posters of the first list were up.  It was drizzling and I thought who but the crazy American is going to stand in the rain, stare up at a balcony and listen to a bunch of politicians.  The whole village – that’s who!  Initially only a few cars pulled into the piazza and folks parked with the front windows facing the balcony.

Drive in electioneering!

Drive in electioneering!

An hour later the entire piazza was a drive in movie.  Cars faced the show, windows down to hear the speeches and moms running out to get pizza and drinks to go.  When the rain let up, people got out of their cars.  If they liked what they heard they honked and cheered!  This is a community that is totally involved in the political system.  Enough words – check out the video.

Going for the early and often motif – I voted on Sunday.  Clutching my certificate of eligibility to vote, I went into the school, found my district, handed in my certificate only to have an election worker stare at it, stare at me and demand my “documents”.  I had no freakin’ idea what that meant but luckily had my italian passport on me.  I handed it over, assumed an arrogant posture, and watched as the dude stared at my picture and stared at me.  Finally, with a humpf he said fine.  I signed in, was given a pencil and a paper ballot.  I went to the two foot high cubical, put my X on the circle, wrote in Mancini, folded the ballot and stuffed it in the ballot box!  Yeah, how cool is that, you actually get to stuff  a ballot box.   By the end of  a rainy Sunday about one-third of the eligible voters had voted.   About fifty-one percent  of eligible voters ultimately turned out. Can you imagine!  This was an off cycle election and people actually came out!

Monday, I had to do something.  It is impossible to just sit out an election.  So I wandered down to the polling place to watch the counting of the ballots.  In front of a crowd, each ballot is pulled out, shown to the room, the Sindaco’s name read and the consigliere’s name read.  Those names are marked and the ballot is put aside.  That means that political organizations can keep an accurate tally too.  No hanging chads here – just a big X.  I got bored after a while because doing show and tell with a couple thousands sheets of paper takes a lot longer than reading numbers off the back of a machine.  To see the final results read the numbers in the Pontelandolfo News.  http://www.pontelandolfonews.com/index.php?id=3357

A few days after the election I noticed new political posters going up.  What in the hell is this?  The election was over.  They were giant thank you notes.  Whether a ticket won or lost they thanked the voters.  Now, how nice it that!  Take heed American politicians there are lessons to be learned here.

Even though we lost we are considerate enough to say thank you!

Even though we lost we are considerate enough to say thank you!

Thank you! Thank you!

Thank you! Thank you!

Categories: Politics - Quirky Aside | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

People Vote for People – Politicking Pontelandolfo Style

I can’t really talk about politics without talking about the one guy who understood it best, made sure I understood it and got frustrated as hell when newbies to the process refused to listen.  Good old “Johhny G”, my dad Giovanni Francesco Guerrera, was a politician in the grand style of  former speaker  of the House of Representatives – Tip O’Neill.  “People vote for people.”  “All politics are local!” Those are the clear cut salient facts that my dad foisted upon me at a tender age.  Dad was one of the men who moved Hillsborough Township into the 2oth century.  He was Mayor and on the Township Committee for numerous terms in the 60’s and 70’s.  He was always involved in local, state and national campaigns – sending me to represent him once to a meeting in the Jimmy Carter Whitehouse – but that is another story.  His passion for politics was learned at his daddy’s knee – Pontelandolfo’s Francesco Guerrera.  My nonno, with other Italian immigrants, started Hillsborough’s Democratic Organization!  Whoops – let’s get back to today and personal politics.

Dad's head shot for a State Senate Run.

Dad’s head shot for a State Senate Run.

Yeah, yeah, we all care about issues, platforms, programs etc.  But the reality is, if you are my friend and I ask you to vote for me you will.   Just like we buy candy from our friends kids to support organizations we don’t particularly agree with – for me it is the Boy Scouts.  I hate the politics of the Boy Scouts but love the kids in my extended family who pound on my door in cub scout costumes – I mean uniforms selling candy.  So ethics be damned, I buy the candy.  See – people buy from people.

Daddy always said the way to win an election is like pyramid marketing – you get a core of folks who adore you for whatever reason – and get them to contact and pitch you to the friends who adore them for whatever reason.  People respond to people.

National and domestic issues are important but how does that break down to me, my family and my home town? Now you get it – think local.  Well, politics in Pontelandolfo is about as local centric as you can get.  It is time for me to stop thinking about my larger than life political pappa and tell you about Pontelandolfo.

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X marks the Sindaco circle!

The candidates actually go from house to house and talk to people!  How amazing!  No robo calls here just house calls.  That means you need a strong bladder, because at every house you have a caffè and conversation.  What really amazed me is that people actually told you if they would vote for you or not!  Having lived in Asbury Park, where if everyone who swore they voted for me really had I would have been Queen for a day, I was amazed that folks might actually deign to tell the truth.  “Hey, you’re my pal and I love you but I don’t like the guy at the top of your ticket so – sorry no can do!”  Remember from my earlier post, you vote for the Sindaco (mayor) and then write in one name from his ticket to be your choice for consigliere (council).  Check out the sample ballot – put an X in the circle for the Sindaco and write in one name. ( I did discover later that some folks had indeed told a wee lie to my cousin and really didn’t vote for her – but that was an anomaly.)

Lots of cars in the piazza means lots of folks are gathering in shops and the bars (cafés).

Lots of cars in the piazza means lots of folks are gathering in shops and the bars (cafés).

What people were talking about in the bars and around the piazza were the local problems that the commune has.  Some of these issues are indeed national – like there are no jobs for young people.  Others are very local and personal. This is beautiful village and yet some folks are dumping their garbage and nothing is being done to clean it up.  The elderly often can’t subsist on their incomes and something must be done to provide local support – or to petition the province for help.  The local library was something I witnessed and heard “Rocomincio Da Te” candidates talk about.  It needs books!  It needs to be perked up and better utilized.  Programs for young people are always an issue.  Are sports enough?  Should the commune increase arts based programs?  Each list of candidates distributed their platforms and spoke about issues like these.

Technology is not totally ignored in this very personal approach to campaigning.  Cars are outfitted with speakers and festooned with campaign posters.  A pre-recorded “Vote for XXXXX,” and  “Vote for the (insert name of ticket” could be heard blaring up and down the streets and barely streets of the country side.  At first I was taken aback – whoa is that an obnoxious gelato truck?  Well, there is no obnoxious gelato truck – what a gift that would be – but campaign aides rousing the voters.  The second time I heard it I went out on our balcony to see which ticket it was.  It was the one I was voting for so I waved and cheered.  Does the spirit good to see your team out and about.  Since Pontelandolfo has lots of small family farms and the families really are out working the fields and tending the animals, I could see the benefit of the mobile system.  Where I couldn’t see it was in bigger cities – where the blaring through the busy streets was constant.  If I lived in one I might be forced to wear earplugs or toss pomodori out the window.  Jack and I followed one rolling billboard and blaring sound system for about 20 minutes in a town that shall remain nameless.   Well – here see for yourself.

Categories: Politics - Quirky Aside | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

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