The SS Andrea
Doria and Dante
Fifty years ago this past July
25th, an icon of Italian national pride, the SS Andrea
Doria, embarking from Genoa and bound for New York, collided
with the SS Stockholm and sunk. http://www.andreadoria.org/.
One would surmise, that most
Americans today have never heard of this great ocean liner
and its tragic demise. And if this catastrophe has not lived
on in the collective memory as has say, the Titanic,
perhaps it has much to do with scale and timing.
The Titanic, a much
bigger ship from a more mythical era (“The 1910’s”),
before the advent of sophisticated technology and broadcast
media, lost so many more lives. 1198 to be precise. That was
over 60% of the 1,959 total passengers and crew on board.
And on its maiden voyage, to boot.
But “only” 46 people on the Andrea
Doria, lost their lives. Less than 3% of the total 1,706
people on board.
Tragedies and the ensuing mythologies they
evoke, are often the product of “big numbers.”
So with the Andrea Doria having “small”
numbers, and coming at a time following the Titanic
by 44 years, and with two World Wars and other wars and acts
of God in between—and now especially with a post “9/11”
sensibility—its sinking today, seems a mere footnote
in history. But it is no footnote for those who were on board.
One such person was a childhood friend and
playmate, Dante. No not the author of The Divine Comedy
(we’re not that old!), but Dante Gallinari, now age
60, and a successful real estate broker in Scarsdale, NY.
His adventure gave him a certain status in
our small neighborhood on the Lower East Side. Here’s
a clip from a photo taken in 1957 (’58?) of yours truly
and Dante at that fantastical childhood place, our beloved
here is Dante more recently at a 1999 reunion for
survivors of the Andre Doria; alive and well today
And on the importance of remembrance there’s
this from that “other” Dante:
and Edward Hopper
Much of the country has experienced excruciating heat waves
this summer. (An Inconvenient Truth, so to speak).
"Black outs", "Brown outs" and air conditioner
blow outs have been reported in large numbers. And here we
go again with remembrance.
But it brought back to us, a
time when the only relief from the heat was a wide-open window.
And an electric fan placed here or there. You simply sucked
it up and slowed down the pace. At least there was no school.
Which leads us to Edward Hopper (1882-1967).
He is arguably the best known
American realist painter of the inter-World War period. Click
here if you don’t believe us. www.edwardhopper.com.
And while his work has always
been about a sense of loneliness, it often also seems to be
about trying to escape the heat; both real and metaphoric
Often by means of people standing or sitting in various stages
of undress, before an open window. Or sometimes just outside
There is never snow in a Hopper
painting. There is only that eternal sun beating down, casting
sharp shadows, more in oppression than in comfort. We share
this sentiment having described the sun in one of our poems
(The California Sun), as “the devil’s
We have been particularly reminded
of this, this summer, what with: the record breaking temperatures;
having re-read The Poetry of Solitude: A Tribute to Edward
Hopper (collected by Gail Levin) and having been to the
Whitney Museum in New York last week, for its 75th anniversary
highlighted by a special exhibit of Hopper’s work.
As a picture is said to
be worth a thousand words, here are ten thousand:
In these, the dog days of summer and air-conditioned
lives, one now never sees an open window until the fall.
A Hopper painting would suggest that that
it is just as well.
Assassins Say The
apologies to Art Linkletter
First a word about the Paleolithic age of medicine in the
In the Health & Fitness section
of The New York Times last month (July 25, 2006),
there was an article entitled: A President Felled by an
Assassin and the 1880’s Medical Care.
It unequivocally states, that while President Garfield was
shot twice by Charles J. Guiteau at a railroad station on
July 2, 1881, it was this primitive state of medical knowledge
back then, that ultimately did him in. Garfield lingered on
his death bed for 80 days as doctors pondered how best to
At one point, even Alexander Graham Bell (yes, the phone
guy) was brought in to try to help find the bullet via what
might have been the first metal detector. But, get this, it
failed on Garfield because he was lying a coil spring mattress,
and the metal in the mattress threw the detector off (the
coil spring mattress had just been invented and was still
unusual). As the kids would say, "whatever."
At his trial, Guiteau exclaimed to the court:
shot him. The doctors and Alexander Graham Bell killed
And while he was probably correct, he was still executed on
January 23, 1882.
But hearing of this remark, and remembering one of Sirhan
Sirhan’s statements following his appeal for release
from prison for his killing of Senator Robert Kennedy, we
got to thinking, that assassins indeed, do say some of the
Here is what Sirhan said at his 1982 parole hearing:
Robert Kennedy were alive today, he would not countenance
singling me out for this kind of treatment."
Don’t you hate when that happens! The one guy who would
be sympathetic to your murder conviction, is the very guy
that you murdered? Cheeze…what bad luck.
Then, take John Wilkes Booth. Please. No low brow he, he spouted
out Latin upon leaping across the stage in his escape, after
firing that fatal shot:
As William F. Buckley Jr. had not been born yet (and therefore
was not in the audience), no one knew what the heck Mr. Booth
was saying. A Latin scholar had to be summoned to the theater
to translate: “Thus always to tyrants.” “Ah,”
said the people…still scratching their heads.
Mark David Chapman after killing John Lennon and having the
gun taken out of his hand by the doorman at the Dakota building,
had this to say to police as he put his hands up in the air
when they arrived
hurt me," he
pleaded. "I'm unarmed."
You mean like you had just “hurt” Mr.Lennon? Uh
. . . who was also unarmed?
Of course not all would-be assassins succeed. And every once
in a blue moon, one like Mehmet Ali Agca, is actually forgiven
by his intended victim. Pope John Paul II visiting him in
his jail cell in 1981, did just that.
And yet, on March 30, 2005 just prior to the Pope's death,
according to the account posted by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_John_Paul_II
, “Agca gave an interview to the Italian newspaper La
Repubblica in which he claimed
to be working on a book about the assassination attempt.
The newspaper quoted Agca claiming at length that he had
accomplices in the Vatican who helped him with the assassination
devil is inside Vatican's wall".
Something, of course, he never had the bad manners to say
directly to the Pope, as he was receiving his absolution for
his heinous act.
And then there’s the case of Lazlo Toth. While not technically
an assassin, he certainly operated in that spirit. Taking
a hammer to The Pieta and shouting—
am Jesus Christ risen from the dead",
he removed the Virgin's arm at the elbow, knocked off a chunk
of her nose, and chipped one of her eyelids.
We could go in this manner ad infinitum ( as Booth
might be inclined to say) given the unwieldy numbers of assassins,
assassin wannabes, terrorists and just plain assanine malcontents,
that history has bestowed on us. But you get the idea.
And if there is a collective theme that can be culled from
these misguided folks, and their justifications for the horrific
deeds they have wrought, we think it is something along the
DESCENT INTO MADNESS
CLOSELY THE LOSS
A SENSE OF IRONY.
Speaking of Irony…
The Cost of a Penny
It was reported in the news this past month, in case you missed
it, that it now cost 1.4 cents for the government to mint
each penny. And so now:
“Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Az) is currently sponsoring
Tender Modernization Act which would phase out the
penny by specifying that cash transactions be averaged
to the nearest five cents. This rounding is done such
that it favors neither the customer nor the retailer.
The proposed legislation does not remove the penny from
circulation, but it does provide a means for the penny
to gradually fall out of use.”
While this might make “sense” (“to coin
a phrase”…insert groan here), what of
the emotional impact on our cultural reference points and
Can we ever sing “Pennies From Heaven”
again, without noting the cruel irony in the lyrics?
Dare we inflate “a penny for your thoughts,”
to “a nickel for your thoughts”?
We can no longer ever “put our two cents in.”
Which might actually be good since such “metal-ing”
in another’s business is never appreciated anyway.
Something can never again, even an ugly dog, be said to…
“cost a pretty penny.”
And will anyone ever buy a pair of “Nickel”
or “Dime” Loafers? Or perhaps at Neiman
Marcus, “Quarter” Loafers?
To us, the lowly penny is the most soulful and esthetically
pleasing coin in our currency. And also, to eliminate it,
would be to lose that reminder on a daily basis, of the hard
work and ethos upon which this country was built. That is
A penny saved is a penny earned.
It seems a sad state of affairs when we can no longer afford
our own currency.
Horatio, I knew him well.”
The St. Monica
Follies are back
For the fourth consecutive year, the St. Monica Follies
will present an entertainment show, as a fundraiser for the
Hope at the Door ministry.
This is a church group dedicated to assisting the poor and
the needy throughout the year, who are not only those from
the St. Monica parish, but residents of West Los Angeles as
And no, we will not be recreating the old Ed Sullivan
Show variety format this year, as we have for the past
two with yours truly presiding. See below.
No, this year the theme is:
In the first act, we will do a revival of Good
News— arguably, a show that might best
be described as the birth of the Broadway musical, as we have
come to know it.
In the second act, we relive the salad days of radio as a
variety medium, in the late 30’s with recreations of
shows such as Bob and Ray and Easy
And that’s not all folks. An Italian dinner as well!
And all for just $25! ($30 at the door)
Saturday August 26th at 7PM
St. Monica’s Church.
725 California Ave.
Santa Monica, CA 90403
To buy tickets: http://www.stmonica.net/follies/index.html
Or, as available, that night at the door.