Sunday, September 12th, featuring the work of Rito Ruggiero, the veranda in front of our house was transformed into an outdoor gallery. We had two days to pull it off. The framed collection of work arrived Friday night. As we catalogued and created labels for the twenty pieces, our delight in Rito’s unschooled talent increased. Saturday morning, Jack, Rossella Mancini, my partner, and I went into overdrive. I only threw a hammer at Jack once – it missed.
Speaking of my husband, Jack Huber, he has an incredible eye for composition. (He married me didn’t he.) I have to give him all the credit for designing and hanging the show. Rossella and I were his somewhat able assistants. Saturday evening all the pieces were in place. The stage was dressed and we snapped pictures to continue our outpouring of digital publicity. Then we struck the set! Yup, we took all the work down. WHAT! The show was outdoors. Even though we have a gated home, between the weather and the potential for thievery we had to bring everything back into the house. Jack had made a diagram of what went where. I gulped and thought “how the hell are we going to do this on Sunday?”
Sunday morning the blue skies and bright sun created the perfect backdrop for the show. Annarita Mancini, my incredibly talented assistant, arrived and put on the caffè. Rossella and her terrific kids, Annalaura and Alessio, raced in. Everyone leaped into the fray. Silver arrows soon could be followed directly to our house. The veranda was swept, mopped and tweaked. Nicola Ciarlo arrived with flowers and arranged greenery. Jack’s diagram was essential – the art was rehung. Tables were set, viewing chairs set. Food and wine delivered. Annalaura took her place behind the bar. The giant banner was hung on the gate. More pictures were taken and quickly posted on social media. Our energetic team did a stellar job. Then I panicked.
Would anyone come? We had press in the daily paper, tons of social media inserts, direct invitations and wine – lots of wine. But would anyone come? At 3:59 PM I felt like a kid impatiently waiting for her birthday party to start. Rito arrived with his family. My stomach was in knots. Bing. 4:00 PM – no one. Merde. 4:10 PM the parade started. People came alone, in groups, with families or friends. I smiled and took a breath.
We were quite pleased with the number of guests that not only came, but also purchased art. Our social media generated requests for information from potential buyers in the United States. For me, the highlight of the day was watching Rito do gallery tours for interested people. Explaining not only his technique but the inspiration and location of each piece. At one point, a group of the village’s young business people came and were asking questions, commenting and engaging with Rito in a passionate discourse.
Then it was over. Guests left, all was packed up, leftover wine was drunk and the team took a breath and went out to dinner. A celebration of accomplishment was in order. And you all wonder how I spend my time in a small Southern Italian village! Come to Pontelandolfo and see!
P.S. My 9/11 based play, E-mail: 9/12 will be available from publisher, Next Stage Press, on October 1st. Besides being a play, it would be a great addition to a High School or University history curriculum.
There aren’t many things I’m afraid of. Needles, however, turn my tummy to jello, make my teeth clench and my hands sweat. Imagine the wave of fear that washed over me when the orthopedic doctor in Alghero, Sardegna said “everyday for thirty days you have to give yourself a needle in the stomach.” I screamed NO. The nurse said, “or die from a blood clot.” Oh, I mused – die or get a needle in the stomach everyday for thirty days. Thirty days ways the length of time I was to wear the cast/boot on my broken ankle and repose. Gulp, I’ll take the needle but I can’t give it to myself. The nurse showed my husband Jack how to jab a needle in my gut. Jack did it – I think happily and with a malicious grin – for three weeks. Then he left for Venice. Catzzo, now what do I do? No way I can shoot myself up with blood thinners – eeeeeuuuuuchh.
Wheelchair and Booze! One way to get through this.
Curbside Service at La Farmacia! Annarita, my resourceful personal assistant, brought me to Pontelandolfo’s pharmacy. Since I wasn’t supposed to put pressure on my foot and wasn’t about to hop on cobblestones, I couldn’t get out of the car. Dottoressa Tina Perone raced to the rescue! Pharmacists here can give needles and will – even it that means watching me tremble in my car. Tina opened my car door, I pulled my dress over my head, pulled down my panties and closed my eyes. Hey, did you give me the shot? She had and I hadn’t felt a thing. We went to the pharmacy for the entire week that Jack was gone and I almost happily got my daily needle. Thank you Perone family!
Curbside service didn’t just happen at the pharmacy. Small town life is wonderful. Shop owners helped me, laughed with me and made sure I kept rolling along.
Curbside Service at La Feramenta! I had a new sink installed and needed to buy a faucet. No way could I handle the uneven street with my hop-along walker. The owner of our local hardware store sent out selections for me to choose from. The transaction happened at the car. Thank you Nicola!
Curbside Service at Da Tiziana! Since I was now sleeping in the dining room and folks kept stopping buy to visit and stare at my broken ankle, I needed nightgowns that weren’t tattered and stained. Off we went to our local clothing shop. The owner dashed out with nightgowns. Then, in the street, she and Annarita helped me balance on one foot while I tried them on. Of course, I did that over my clothes! My mamma taught me not to stand naked in the street. We visited her a few times to buy knee socks and other stuff. All carried to the car. Thank you Tiziana!
Curbside Service at Bar Elimar and Bar 2000! Wheelchair in tow, the ever powerful Annarita decided I needed to get out of the house. I sighed. She threw me in the car. We arrived at Bar Elimar and barista, Annette, moved tables around outside so I could easily toss my sorry butt in a chair from the car. Ahhhhh- Campari Spritz please. Another time we went to Bar 2000 and owner, Ghaleb, went out of his way to make me comfortable. Thank you both!
It pays to be a local! Thank you to all those kind and generous Pontelandolfese who fed me, laughed with me and made my thirty days of staying off my foot bearable.
The days are getting shorter, the wind is whistling in the mountains – summer is over. Annalaura, Gabriele and Alessio Iacovella looked at each other and said – what did we do this summer?
A Rainy September Day – Let’s Talk About the Summer!
After a warm your chilly bones lunch of tortellini soup, roasted chicken, home made french fries, local mushrooms and more at Carmela’s kitchen, her grandchildren eleven year old Gabriele, 12 year old Annalaura and 8 year old Alessio sat me down and told me their summer story –
During the day we stayed with Nonna Carmela – she is a great cook! At night we went to Casalduni. Casalduni has – Parco Giochi. (Their dad, Pasquale, is Casalduni’s Sindaco – mayor. The kids burst with pride about that.)
Parco Giochi has a garden, lake with fish, scivolo – slide,gonfiabili – inflatable houses to jump in, and campo per pallavolo – volleyball, bocce, small paddle boats –we know lots of kids in Casalduni. We had fun every night.
Allessio – a real charmer chimed in – Mi piace mar in Puglia! I took a long trip to Puglia with my family. In the car we looked at the paesaggio – panorama – and we saw the flowers, albero d’olvio – olive trees e gira sole – sun flowers .
Gabriele – I was a little bored in the car – the trip was long.
AnnaLaura – No it was short to Puglia – per andare in Calabria il viaggio è lungo.
It had a pool, un animazione – clown – a person to play with us kids. On a typical day – we went to the beach in the morning and in the afternoon to the pool. That way my mother didn’t have to worry about us so much.
What did you like the best?
Gabriele – Dolce- dolce ogni giorno. We ate in the same restaurant in the hotel every day and I ate tanti dolci.
Besides eating dessert what did you do –
Gabriele – I went to the pool to swim. With the animazione – played darts, calcio in the streets, pallanuoto – water polo and ping pong. OK, OK giocare con l’animazione è più divertente di mangiare dolci.
Alessio – Ho giocato con i miei nuovi amici nel mare.
Those are old people in that picture. I played with my new friends Samuele, Fabrizio, Giusseppe, Niccolo e Raffele. We built castles in the sand, swam, giocare a pallone – calcio and ….
Gabriele – Rodi Garganico – one night we went there too. It was like Pontelandolfo with an ocean.
View from a piazza in Rodi Garganico
Annalaura – Tanti negozi e bancharelle – shops and stands. The ancient buildings – beautiful. We were sad to leave Puglia.
Alessio – But wait till we tell you about our other trip to Calabria –
It is September – how did you spend your summer vacation?
There I was, rifling through my tiny little notebook, looking for a clue as to what happened on day five of the festa. The seven day event filled party had addled my brain. Movie? 9:30 – what the hell did that mean. I pulled up the Festa poster to read the list. Cripes! There are 8 – I counted – 8 days of late night events, drinks, etc. No wonder I can’t remember. Whack – it hit me – what did movie mean – just the biggest event to happen here – Comicron. A two day film festival that drew entries from all over the world. Note it was a TWO day even – so I only have to write one blog. The web site is slick – http://www.comicronfilmfestival.it – and states:
Il Comicron international short film festival nasce da un’idea di Ugo Gregoretti di creare un’inedita manifestazione dedicata esclusivamente ai cortometraggi comici. Un’esperienza in grado di scoprire nuovi talenti…
The Comicron international short film festival grew from the idea of Ugo Gregoretti to create an unprecedented event dedicated exclusively to comedy shorts. An experience that allows us to discover new talent …
This festival and the drawing power of Artistic Director Maestro Ugo Gregoretti, attracted a huge well heeled audience – including the red carpet crowd. They made the mistake of setting up the red carpet during the day – so that any old riff-raff could strut their stuff – like me!
Slick, slick, slick. The roadies and volunteers were all dressed in red t-shirts, had communication equipment and moved about with purpose. High end ear buds could be seen on crew chiefs scurrying about with clip boards. Banners from the highway led you to the piazza. The banners were a nice touch and perked up the streets.
We got there in plenty of time, sat on the red chairs and made sure I wasn’t sitting behind a tall person. The show was slated to start at 9:30 and being run by professionals so we knew curtain would be at 9:30. Sitting there, I discovered that being on time was actually late. The cutting of the ribbon and parade down the faux red carpet had started earlier – rats!!!
Having the attention span of a gnat, I promptly started looking around – whoa flowers on the down stage edge. That’s a nice touch and the screen is huge. It was obvious that the A-team had done the setup, the stage was nicely dressed and lit. Suddenly, I noticed that everyone was pointing to the front – must be someone famous – it is! Sarah Maestri was here – she is an incredibly famous Italian film, television and radio star!!!! She also just recently released a novel that has become a best seller. Of course, I was here on time and didn’t get to meet her – ugggg.
Scared you – thought you wouldn’t see her face! Don’t worry in the next photo we have Giorgio Arlorio, Sarah Maestri, Ugo Gregoretti and our own Sindaco Rinaldi. H’mmmm I bet you are wondering who Giorgio Arlorio is – just an incredibly successful screenwriter with tons of film and television credits.
On the big screen, the asino – donkey of yesterday’s Pontelandolfo came to life and licked the screen revealing Comicron! The wait for the show to start was broken by counting how many times they would repeat the mule action accompanied by some killer swing music. Then the graphic changed. The music changed. The lights changed. I raced home and changed.
The producers of Comicron are in the film business so the film work and the digitized graphics was top shelf. Media held our attention and signaled what was going on. You didn’t need a program because the art infused graphics let you know who was on stage and why. The hosts, Laura Abbaleo and Rino Genovese were real pros and a welcome change from the creepy guy of the night before. Unfortunately, they had to read an incredibly long list of sponsors but moved it rapidly. Now those names should have been on an opening graphic and we could have read it while we were waiting. I got just a tad antsy. The duo really impressed me when I realized they were verbally synching with images that were flashing behind them!
They opened the show with a home town favorite, Ri Ualanegli Juonior, performing Gioca Dei Bambini. Sadly, many in the audience left their seats after the little dancers performed.
Don’t you leave your seat – check out the dance. I shot their concert in June and you’ll see Gioca Dei Bambini, the traditional dance that everyone loves. The opening is kids playing games – the dancing is a few seconds past that.
The folks that scurried out of their seats didn’t go far because the kids also performed at the very end of the night. I was gone by then and really couldn’t grasp why you would have little kids stay up until 12:30 to be the finale of a film festival. Oh, I get it – audience numbers. I don’t think the programmers needed to do that. The audience – like me – was there to see this international slate of short comic films. The red carpet notables were another big draw.
Speaking of unnecessary fill – the night also featured additional live entertainment of of the well known professional variety. Next up, after the spirited young dancers was comic Antonio Riscetti. I appreciated his political humor and the fact that he spoke slowly and beautifully enough for me to understand.
Finally, we got to see the first set of three films. Then a singer came on who had starred in Notre Dame de Paris – It was already 11:00 ish we didn’t need another famous person we wanted to see the next set of films. I was a bad girl and got up and walked around to get a drink.
Let’s talk about the movies. The professionalism of cinema, writing and editing varied. All were well done but some reminded me of silly student films – you know slap stick and stupid sophomoric ideas. I mean “Mafia University” – come on. I loved the well scripted and thought out Fulgenzia – Until A Name You Do Part.
The next night an additional six films were shown – sans a lot of the extra entertainment.
They flowed on to the grand denouement – the announcement of the winners!
Whoa – all I can think about are drugs! With the air waves bombarded with the shut down of the American Government and all that debate over the Affordable Health Care Act – who wouldn’t think of drugs. Medicine to keep us healthy. Medicine to keep us sane. Time to look into the meds that keep us sane and send some to the USA Congress. It makes me crazy to think that a country still exists where some retired folks stop taking medicine when they find they are in the Medicare Part D donut hole of higher profit for big pharma. I am hoping that the Affordable Care Act – if allowed to live on and grow – addresses that too. OK, enough politics – let’s get down to what it is like for an expat to go to the pharmacy here in Pontelandolfo.
There is only one pharmacy in our village – the sign says Farmacia. It is not Waldgreens or CVS or any big box monolith run by employees who will never remember your name. It is simply La Farmacia – a family owned and operated small space on the Piazza Roma. No, they do not sell soda, bread, flip flops, books or toys – there is however a condom dispenser on the nearby exterior wall. How clever – condoms in a machine available 24/7 right out there in public!
Before we leave for extended Italian stays we always try to stockpile medicines for my husband. I’m lucky – I just take a blood pressure med and I made sure to get a thousand samples. Jack takes a suitcase full of heart, cholesterol and who knows what else stuff. What I do know is that when Jack’s Medicare Part D falls into the donut hole of death for the poor, his monthly tab for meds can be $2,000. Damn, my first car cost less than that. Rats, Jack just edited this and said I am lying about the $2,000. Ptblahhhh ( that is me sticking my tongue out at him.) I got the breakdown for what Jack’s co-pays were before we left for Italy in April – $1718.49. So I exaggerated a little but hey – some people don’t have $1718.49 – and that is still more than my first car.
Jack knew, before we hit the Italian hills, we couldn’t afford to buy multi-month’s worth of pills in the USA . So, we spoke to Michelle and Michael our fabulous local – non corporate – pharmacists at Raritan Apothecary. They said – buy them in Italy – they will be a hell of a lot cheaper.
Blatant Plug – Buy Local
25 West Somerset Street Raritan, NJ 08869
I will admit, my drama queen worry mamma surfaced. What if we couldn’t get Jack all the stuff he needed? Would I have to send him home? Get in touch with my wild women roots and make drugs from monkwart? The first time Jack ran out of a medicine, I brought the empty bottle to la farmacia and introduced myself to the Perone family team of Nicola and Tina, the father/daughter pharmacists who keep Pontelandolfo on a healthy path. (Yes, I did remember the Italian courtesy of saying Buon Giorno as soon as I entered the store.)
Dott. Tina Perone recognized me as Carmella’s cousin – the American who dances two nights a week with her mother. Small villages create the art and activity they need. Carmella had organized a bi-weekly line dancing excersize and get together gab fest at the indoor bocce courts. I love to dance, need excersize and wanted to meet the village women. It was a win – win – win since it gave Tina and I an immediate connection.
Even without that connection, Jack and I would have been treated like people not numbers. Dott. Nicola Perone took the empty bottle and then proceeded to research for an incredibly long time the formula and ingredients. When he had the Italian perfect match he provided Jack with his meds. We do not have health insurance for Italy. We are not part of the Italian health care system. We paid full retail. Full retail that was freakin’ less than Jack’s bloody co-pay in the USA! How the hell can that be?
Over the course of months we visited the pharmacy often. Jack’s meds were always researched and supplied. The one thing that cost more in Italy was Advil – ibuprofen – one euro a pill! Of course they only sell 400 mg of Ibuprofen – not our 200 mg bottles. Jack needs to pack his Costco Ibuprofen or start using the Italian Spedifen! Interesting that vitamins weren’t pushed – apparently most people only take those vitamins that docs prescribe – like vitamin D. That made me pause and think about how much I spend a month on supplements.
Poor Jack, he loves to walk in the noon day sun up and down the hills. Too bad the soft corn between his toes hurt like a son of a bitch. We went into the pharmacy to get the name of a podiatrist and the first thing Dott. Nicola said was take off your shoe. Jack took off his shoe and Dott. Nicola looked at the giant thing between his toes. Damn, I wouldn’t even do that and I love the guy. He gave Jack some rubber things to put between his toes and some gunk to put on the ugly thing. Did you catch that, the pharmacist got on his knees and checked out my husband’s toes. You don’t see that at Walmart.
I am uncomfortable sharing the meds my husband takes so I will only give you one example of price point differentials. Before we left for Italy Jack got Nexium 40mg – 90 pills – for a $311.95 co-pay or $3.47 co-pay per pill. In Italy for the generic exomeprazolo it cost .73 per pill retail – not co-pay. I just checked on line and the exomeprazolo 40 mg for 90 days co-pay at CVS on line comes to .55 per pill. Retail is less than or a wee bit more than the USA co-pay. Huh?!!! What?!!!!
Interested in learning more about Italian pharmacies and brushing up on your Italian –
Le farmacie sono luoghi organizzati dallo stato ma operati da professionisti medici che vendono medicinali solitamente dietro ricetta medica. Con l’istituzione delle parafarmacie è possibile acquistare medicinali equivalenti senza ricetta medica.
Pharmacies are places organized by the state but operated by medical professionals who sell medicines usually with a prescription. With the establishment of drugstores you can buy generic medicines without prescription. Are big box drugstores coming to Italy? I hope not. We did see pharmacy concessions with a separate check out in big grocery stores – kind of a grocery/Walmart store set up.
Just like I won’t shop in a Walmart in the USA and we only get medicine at a local pharmacy – Raritan Apothecary. When in Italy, I’ll stick with going to see Dott. Nicola and Dott. Tina in our little La Farmacia on the Piazza. La Farmacia where every “Buon Giorno” is greeted with a smile and you are served by people you can trust.