Day 7 – Thomas Moore – poet

7thomasmooreWhen you are drawing a historical personage, you are at the mercy of the previous artist’s work. Thomas Moore died before there were photographs, so I picked the portrait that looked most lifelike as my reference, but I was never happy with it. Thomas Moore was a singer, songwriter, poet, and entertainer. He toured the USA and briefly met President Thomas Jefferson, who mistook him for a child. I guess Thomas Moore was rather short. His most famous poem/song is “Last Rose of Summer” Like Mary Shelley, he too suffered the loss of his children. He lost all of them. Thomas Moore is one of the two people who destroyed Lord Byron’s memoirs after his death. I really wish I knew why they thought they needed to do that!

The Last Rose of Summer – for your listening enjoyment, here is a great rendition of this song.

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Day 3 – Mary Shelley

3maryshelleyThis is Mary Shelley. Honestly, I knew nothing about her besides some sort of association with Lord Byron and Percy Shelley. Mary fell in love with Percy, an older, married man, when she was 16. She was an adored child, but once she cast her lot with Percy, her father did everything he could to thwart her. Percy was quite the flake, and she was in dire straits much of the time. To compound that, she lost 3 of her 4 children when they were very small. During all this tumult, she wrote Frankenstein! Apparently they were stuck in a villa somewhere unable to go out because of incessant rain, so they sat around the fire and told ghost stories. This is how she came up with the idea. The darkness of the story makes so much more sense understanding just a little of her life.

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Ripped off, the story of “Jim” Fressola

vincenzoMy only American grandparent was born in Manhattan, New York at the end of the 19th century. He was born in the USA to recent Italian immigrants. He was their last child, born when they were already advanced in age, and had more or less given up on having a son at all, having had 3 daughters before him; Maria, Filomena and Vincenza. They named their last daughter Vincenza to make up for not having a son, as they were expected to name a son after the father’s father.
He grew up in Manhattan, attending public school, but his parents felt the pull of their land (they had some property in Atena Lucana) and decided to go back to Italy. He didn’t want to go, he was an American, and Manhattan was all he knew, but being just a child, he had to go with them. He hated it there, he always spoke Italian with an accent and was called “the American.”
Soon after they returned to Italy, the first world war began. And he was just the right age to be drafted. He was very unhappy about being in the Italian army, he was an American! But serve he did, and at the end of the war, he was discharged honorably, still a private. He took the first boat he could find back to the USA in 1920. This was the one time where he was on the lucky side; a lot of his fellow veterans of that war could not go to America, because of very strict immigration quotas. He had no trouble at all, because he was an American citizen.
Back home, he discovered that now he was considered an Italian, not an American at all. Once again he was the odd man out, swimming up stream.

because of his Italian heritage, he found it very difficult to get a job, even with his very good command of English. Once when he was out job hunting, he saw a “help wanted” sign. He received an enthusiastic welcome and filled out the application. When he was done with the paperwork he handed it in, only to see the interviewer throw it into the trash upon seeing his very Italian name on the application.

Speaking of names, a common American nickname in those days for Vincenzo was Jimmy, so Vincenzo became Jimmy and Jimmy became James and my grandfather went by James or Jim for the rest of his life. His last name, Fressola meant frying pan in dialect. Of course, here in the USA, it was just another hard to spell foreign name.

When he was in his late 20’s he met the Melino family at church and found their younger daughter Lucia very interesting. She was only 16 years old, totally not interested in him, (he was so old!), but he continued to come to their house for dinner, and when he was 31 years old, they got married; my grandmother, Lucia Melino, was barely 18 the day of her wedding.

While his fellow Italian-Americans bought houses, got medical care, and went to college on the GI bill, my grandfather received absolutely nothing from the Italian government. Whatever he tried to do, he seemed to come up against stumbling blocks, he wanted to be a police officer, but was too short. Finally, long after his kids were raised, he found work at the Lionel model train factory, where he was twice awarded for good service. Our memories of him are of an angry and then finally defeated man.
Right after he died, the Italian government made him an honorary knight and offered my grandmother $15.00 a month in pension benefits. She declined.

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Harvesting the Pacific Northwest Grandeur.

llumberjacksThe first white settlers of the Oregon Territory discovered that the riches were in wood and salmon. Flocks of hardy men came from all over the world to harvest this wood, some of it 1000 year old trees, many of these trees stood over 300 feet tall and their girths were often over 50 feet. Long before the invention of gas powered chainsaws, they had to saw behemoths like this one by hand. It was a tough dangerous job, and many lumberjacks did not survive or ended up maimed. Sadly, most of these trees are gone since they did their job well.
Luckily for us, there are a few trees left standing that demonstrate the immensity of the trees that are now gone. Here is a link that tells you where some of them are.
This painting is not for sale.

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La Giara – Sersale


This is a scene from a large house in Sersale that appears to be abandoned. Two years ago, my cousin Peppino Talarico told me that the Talarico family owned this house many years ago. During my latest visit, my tour guides let me peek inside. How lucky could I get? There was this amazing jar standing on the landing.
Many years ago, these jars were used to store water. Now the few that are left are collector’s items, bringing great prices on Italy’s ebay. Since I couldn’t take it home with me, I painted it.

This painting measures 10 1/2″ x 12″ and it is for sale for $200. All proceeds of this sale go to conservation charities, dedicated to preserving endangered species.

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