Saturday, July 30, 2011

Diocletian and Constantine

I am now convinced that we are witnessing the fall of the American empire. Ronald Reagan was our Diocletian and Barack Obama is our Constantine.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The End of Borders Books

When Borders books entered the Chicago Market in 1986 I was a sophomore in college. Chicago had some good local bookstores of which Barbara's and Seminary Coop have survived and a couple of locals like Kroch's and Brentano's which did not. But Borders in Oak Brook was different. It reminded you more of Prairie Lights in Iowa City it had a great selection and was a good place to buy books in suburbs without good bookstores.

Now they are going out of business.

Much has been written about the demise of bookstores. The fact is that a whole series of irreplaceable institutions are being destroyed in America. In many places Catholic schools are but a memory as are small liberal arts colleges and the demise of bookstores is the same problem. You can talk about the internet and kindles and alike but should all the knowledge of the world be only in the ether?

I continue to buy real books. I continue to shop at the Book Table in Oak Park, IL , Seminary Coop in Hyde Park and any other good bookstore. I love the serendipity of it all. Finding a book by looking and reading a few pages and when I am finished putting it on my shelves for future use. I hope that the day never comes when that simple pleasure cannot be enjoyed and I will miss Borders only because it was another place to do that when your wife was shopping for panty hose or brasseries.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My Ancestors the Crusader

As a poet I have always wondered if I could write prose? I can do essays and blog posts but to write a novel was in fact something that always scared me. So I began to work on a novel a few years ago and as part of that work I began to research my family tree for interesting characters and stories. I come from an interesting bunch that ranges from southern Italian rock farmers to it appears aristocratic nobiles from Brescia.

There is a character from my personal history who was always an enigma to my family. My Grandmother Matilde was named after her and was her favorite grandchild and this person was my ancestor and Great Great Grandmother Nobile Metilde Gorno. Nonna Metilde we were always told was a Nobile and that she came from a great family but she chose to marry my great great grandfather, Luigi Guerra who owned a hotel and restaurant and whose name I bear in my middle name. I always wondered why she would leave a life of privilege in the 1870's?

While that mystery has not been solved of why she would marry my ancestor who was known for running a great restaurant. I have found out so much about her family that none of my Grandmother's siblings or my mother's cousins knew about.

They were not only nobles but have a fascinating history. They survived the black death as one of the few families in their town and rose to prominance. My wife Waltraud and I went to their town last month on a vacation and it became evident how prominent they were with palaces and streets named after them. and one of of their forefathers one Scipio Conde di Luzzago was a Crusader. If you have ever seen the Verdi Opera i Lombardi it is about his Crusade.

The world is a very small place and all history is personal.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

July 4th 2011

When I was child we would go to Italy for vacation to see family and sometimes on July 4th we would go to Pinzolo, the town of my Grandfather for the fourth of July. Pinzolo was known for two things creating missionaries and priests and exporting knife grinders to the world. All over the world there are Pinzolo knife grinders today and many of them had returned to the town of their birth to retire and open businesses. It was always funny to me to hear them talk. They all had different accents. My grandfather had a New York accent but there were grinders from Australia, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta and South Africa but they would gather for the fourth and they built a memorial in Pinzolo to their efforts. The thing that made me proudest is that these people had done so much with their lives and they were full of hope.

The Fourth of July for them was a day of hope.

I fear that that hope has been extinguished. It is not political it is just a fact. In the USA that hope that anything is possible and that if you work hard and try to save and build you will be rewarded had been destroyed by a global system that rewards cleverness over hard work and which in the end has destroyed the greatest economic story of human history. It is evident to me that the hope that my 19 year old grandfather had sharpening knives during the depression in Brooklyn does not exist anymore in the USA. We are victims now of a global financial system that does not care for his kind of anachronistic vision.

This sadness and lack of hope pervades the United States. Some of it is manifest by Tea Partiers and others by Leftists but watch MSNBC ior FOX for a evening and what you get is negative, hopeless and sad. Where is the America of John Glenn? Where is the America of my grandfather coming to America and when he died be had worked hard and lived a good life and built something?

That America has been killed by a theory.

America was never a "Free Market" nation. That was what Britain was. We were always a nation that allowed small markets and local people work really hard to build something but over time conservatives had made bigger better and more free to exploit so we de industrialized and in the end we became two nations one educated and the other in "service".
College had become a life long expense where a family can almost never pay for it and where students amass tens of thousands in debt not allowing them to ever follow their dreams. And those who are protected like corporate titans and union workers sit in their gains keeping out the rest.

America in 2011 looks more like Brazil in 1950 and Brazil in 2011 looks more like America in 1950. It is the fault of the class that runs America both left and right and if they do not change what is happening it is going to make Greek and British riots look like child's play.

American hopefullness and dream is ending and what will replace it?