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#BabyBoomers

  • Life In the Time of Corona (Fifth in an unlimited series)


    Life In the Time of Corona (Fifth in an unlimited series)

    Chuck’s Note: My longtime friend Steve Slavsky wrote these comments after reading an article in The Intelligencer of New York Magazine entitled “Even Naked, America Cannot See Itself: In a time of plague, willful blindness is a coping mechanism” by Zak Cheney-Rice. Steve’s thoughts are reprinted here with his permission.

    WHERE IS OUR DEMOCRACY HEADED?

    By

    Steve Slavsky

         

         I have been concerned for several years over the fast growing economic gap in the United States and what it may portend for the future.  Having studied revolutions that have occurred in many countries over the past 300 years, especially those since 1900, I believe we are reaching a very dangerous time in history for our democracy.  

         Things can go in many different directions, and no one knows the future, but I personally believe that we can't survive with our current state of affairs.  It is not just the leadership, which is skewed toward maintaining or increasing inequality. It is the failure of us, as Americans, to alleviate the problem.  

    cdc-w9KEokhajKw-unsplash.jpg

    Photo by CDC on Unsplash

         Do I know what to do about it?  Not really.  What I do know is that everything about our freedoms and our rights can be lost if we, as a country, move too far to the right or the left.  What's kept us going all these years is the ability to listen to each other and to compromise. That ability seems to have almost disappeared.  

         As I get older, I realize more and more, that the opportunities I had as a lower 

    middle-class kid just aren't there for the majority of American youth anymore.  Education has always been the way to move up the ladder of life and it's becoming less and less available for those who need it most.  
         I'm reminded a lot of the Roman Empire, and how its collapse led to a very dark time for the world.  Not that it was really that great before that time--there was essentially a dictator and a plutocracy.  Unfortunately, I see many parallels all over the world today.  The U.S. doesn't have a dictator, but it certainly has a plutocracy whose members are only interested in enriching themselves with no interest in the common good.

    Note: Steve Slavsky grew up in the Bronx where he attended public schools before graduating from the City College of New York. He served six years active duty in the Army and then worked for the Department of Defense for 27 years in the acquisition field.  After retirement, he spent nine years consulting as a federal acquisitions expert.  

    Copyright: Steve Slavsky, all rights reserved.

  • "That Stupid Mask" Is NOT a Political Statement--Life In the Time of Corona (Sixth In An Unlimited Series)

     
    Life In the Time of Corona (Sixth In An Unlimited Series)
     
     
    "That Stupid Mask" Is NOT a Political Statement
    By
    Robert Sihler
     
    Chuck's Note: Robert Sihler lives in Driftwood, Texas, where he works in special education in the Dripping Springs Independent School District. His passions are rock climbing and mountaineering and getting his children to roll their eyes at him! He often moonlights as a climbing guide and instructor. He originally posted this piece on Facebook; it is reprinted here with his permission.

     

    I don't do politics and religion on my Facebook page. There are people I like and love who have widely different views on these things than I do-- both to the left and to the right-- and it just isn't worth fighting about this with any of them. On a personal level, I like them more than I dislike their positions.

    But I feel compelled to throw my own worthless two cents in on a particular subject: masks.

    I'm of the Atticus Finch school, which is that you should try to see other points of view. 

    So far, most people reading this will agree, but here's where the split will happen:

    A majority of Americans, including me, want the nation to reopen. But among that majority is a majority that wants to be careful about it.

    And this is where we are splitting now. Suddenly, wearing a mask or not wearing one has been turned into a political statement by conservative media. Either you are a brave patriot eschewing masks and flouting distancing guidelines, or you are a coward trembling in your living room under the sway of the deep state and the media and, predictably, George Soros, and, preposterously, Bill Gates.

    My friends, this is completely false.

     

    Unknown.jpeg

    First, let me say that I'm personally not that concerned about covid-19 affecting me. I have always had a strong immune system. On the rare occasions I do get sick, I recover very quickly, and without medical treatment. So although I could be tragically wrong, I suspect that if I contract the virus, I will be asymptomatic or that I will experience mild symptoms that will pass quickly.

    Next, I do understand the frustration and desperation building out there. I am lucky to be among those staying home but still getting paid, and I am supplementing my income by working online as a copywriter. Not for a second do I dismiss the worries of those who have been out of work for weeks now and are facing a financial and mental abyss.

    Finally, I think I look plain stupid wearing a mask. For a while, I didn't bother wearing one except where it was required. But now I am wearing one in enclosed spaces where others are near.

    You can call me a coward if you like, but as I've already said, I'm not really afraid of the coronavirus for my sake. I wear a mask because I have no idea if I might be carrying and so I don't want to risk passing it on to others if I happen to sneeze or cough while I'm standing next to a bunch of people in the bread aisle.

    Over the past couple of months, I've continued going to grocery stores and convenience stores. I've probably climbed more than I did the previous two months. I've been spending money and supporting local businesses, not cowering behind the couch at home and wishing it would just all be over.

    You might be of the mindset that masks and distancing are pointless and we might as well just get it over with. If you are, I know I can't persuade you. But if you're of that mindset and you intentionally get close to people when you know many are trying to avoid that, why are you doing that?

    What if you are an asymptomatic carrier and you infect someone and that person dies? How would you feel about that? Are you that person who knowingly serves a person a food he or she claims to be allergic to just because you don't believe it? I mean, I get tired of all the accommodations allergic people demand, too, but I'm still not going to crack my pistachios over the head of a person with a nut allergy. So why can't you make your statement from a distance?

    When I put on that stupid mask, it's not for me; it's for you.

    When I put on that stupid mask, it's not a political statement. And it isn't one for most people wearing them.

    Unfortunately, it has become a political statement to not wear a mask and to not distance yourself from people you don't live with. It's been turned into a loyalty test, loyalty to Trump.

    It doesn't have to be this way. Here in a pretty red area of Texas, I routinely see bearded guys in big pickups wearing masks indoors. There's no way more than a few of them vote D. They're going to vote for Trump, but they're wearing masks because they get that the virus is not political and that they may have vulnerable loved ones; there are a lot of old people here, and Texans, for all their faults, do have strong family bonds.. 

    Vote however you want in November. If you vote for Trump and Trump wins, I'm not going to have a meltdown and unfriend you because I think that will really show you, lol. And if Biden wins, I hope most of you who vote for Trump won't do the same. I expect better from all of us because of the connections we had way before all of this. And, as always, I'll climb with anyone regardless of politics as long as you're a solid partner.

    But please reject this false dichotomy being peddled for the sole purpose of dividing us. You can wear a mask and still vote for Trump. If you won't wear a mask, you can at least respect the distance others want and expect. Trolling is fun, but it's not funny when lives could be at risk.

    You can also be a Biden voter and be completely fed up with some of the restrictions. That's okay, too; some of them are ridiculous.

    I remember Ronald Reagan's calm and compassion after the Space Shuttle disaster had the country in tears. I remember George H.W. Bush's competent leadership when the Middle East was blowing up and we thought war was coming. I remember Bill Clinton trying to comfort and heal after Columbine. I remember George Bush rallying a shocked nation after 9-11; his words moved me, and when Trent Lott and Tom Daschle led Congress in singing "God Bless America," I had tears in my eyes and felt proud to be an American. And I remember Barack Obama trying to lead us out of a terrible recession that hurt so many people.

    All of those presidents and their policies had flaws, but they tried to unite the nation in times of crisis. They stepped up to the moment. History will judge their efficacy, but they did try.

    Today, we have a president who hasn't even tried to do that. As polls and facts and numbers have increasingly gone against him, he says he never said what he is on video saying, he moves the goalposts, and he pursues division, not persuasion or correction or reconciliation.

    If you like Trump, okay. If you don't, okay. But it's clear he's not going to lead us out of this. Please, let's stop talking past each other trying to score points and instead talk to each other. If I can have rational conversations with family and friends who vote differently than I do, so can you.

    And you can wear a mask in the grocery store or at least stay away from others if you won't. It's not hard and it's not much to ask, and it's not violating your rights under the Constitution.

    Stay safe, be well, and climb on!

    Copyright, Robert Sihler; all rights reserved.

     

  • A YouTube Conversation About the Arts

    A YouTube Conversation About Writing, Teaching, Learning, and the Arts

    Watch my conversation with Sean Murphy, founder and CEO of 1455 Literary at: 
     

     

    Thank you, Sean, for these flattering comments, for the wonderful conversation, and for your important work at 1455 Literary (www.1455literary)!!!

    By Sean Murphy--It's Back to the Future with this next installment of 1455's "The 14:55 Interview":

    Known for many (MANY) years as one of the most popular --and flat out best-- teachers in the history of Fairfax County, Chuck Cascio has also spent decades writing (journalism, sports, non-fiction, and lately, fiction). He also did no small part in helping infuse purpose and passion into your humble narrator, and, as the supportive, encouraging, and exceedingly patient faculty advisor (i.e., editor-in-chief) of South Lakes High The Sentinel, inculcated a respect for the discipline--the nuts and bolts of what real writing entailed.

    So it's with great joy that I chat with "Mr. Cascio" about a great many things, including his memories of being a precocious writer-in-training stealing glances at his parents' copy of The Catcher in the Ryeand why 1968 was such a momentous year in American (and Cascio family) history, and why the theme of coming-of-age recurs in his work. Special praise is doled out to "Born to Run" and Lost in Translation (an unimpeachable one-two punch for easily recommended album and movie), a heartfelt and welcome tribute to the amazing, if under-read, Wallace Stegner.

    Chuck confesses he still needs to read Anna Karenina (don't worry, I'll keep on him, and by the way, that's always a reminder that my friend Jeanne McCulloch's remarkable memoir ALL HAPPY FAMILIES takes its title from Tolstoy's immortal opening lines). We also talk about why it's worthwhile to reach out to a writer, thanking them when their work moves you.

     

    On that note, I know I am one of THOUSANDS of appreciative students (I won't say "former" student, b/c once Chuck teaches you, you stay taught) that want to thank Mr. C. for being something rare in this world: a positive role model and inspiration. I still can picture the sweat on our brows as we cut and pasted (with a razor blade, kids) articles for another issue of The Sentinel, but I'm delighted that my happiest memories of him have yet to be made.

    Watch the interview now: 

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLznxZDM8mQ

     

     

     

     

  • Bobby Kennedy Is Buried; I Graduate From College

    Bobby Kennedy Is Buried; I Graduate From College
    by
    Chuck Cascio
     
         My college graduation was forever marred by an event that I still remember in detail. On June 8, 1968, I graduated from Wagner College on Staten Island, NY, a school I loved. At Wagner, I developed close friends with whom I knew I would share a lifelong bond (I was correct). While that day was one of great satisfaction, it was also the day that Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who had emerged as the political hero of my life, was buried after being shot in the head at close range on June 5 in a Los Angeles hotel.
         
         To me, and to many in my generation, "Bobby" Kennedy was more than just another politician. He was fearless. He walked into riot-torn cities and tried to calm protesters. He united with Civil Rights leaders to champion their causes. He spoke with deep passion in a way that a young person could not only relate to but wanted desperately to emulate. 
         
     

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         Yes, he was born wealthy, but Bobby Kennedy understood that what he was given was not something that everyone was given...nor was it something that everyone could attain. But he wanted to make everything possible for everyone. He wanted to create opportunities. He strove fiercely for fairness and equality. 

         There were times when I was home from college that I would drive by Bobby's home, called Hickory Hill, in McLean, VA, and catch a glimpse of a small group of people playing what looked like touch football in their yard. Was that him? Did I see Bobby? I don't know for sure. I will never know. But I know this: 
         
         His energy and commitment and words are burned into my memory. 
         
         On the car ride home to Northern Virginia following my graduation, my parents and I saw glimpses of crowds gathered around train tracks to mourn as Bobby Kennedy's body, which had been flown into New York, was being taken by train to Arlington National Cemetery. The crowds were so dense, the normally four-hour train ride took more than eight hours. Bobby was buried that night, the same night my diploma was mounted on a wall in my bedroom.
         
         Over the years that have passed I, like so many others, often reflect on my college years, the learning, the experiences, the friends. But I also have found myself reflecting on Bobby Kennedy's unique idealism and, lately, certain words spoken by him--and other words spoken about him--spring to mind. This is Robert F. Kennedy speaking on the importance of acting against injustice:
         
         Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted, when we tolerate what we know to be wrong, when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy or too frightened, when we fail to speak up and speak out, we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice.
         
         And this is what Bobby's younger brother, Senator Ted Kennedy, said at the end of his eulogy for Bobby on the night of June 8, 1968:
         
         My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will someday come to pass for all the world.
         
         Time has flown, and I can't believe 52 years have passed since I graduated from college. But time also seems to have stood still, as  I can't believe that  52 years after the burial of Robert F. Kennedy I have not yet seen that "what he wished for others" has, in fact, "come to pass for all the world."   
         
         Perhaps the world will graduate to that level someday soon.
     

    Copyright Chuck Cascio; all rights reserved.

  • Bobby Kennedy’s Impact: An Excerpt from The Fire Escape Belongs in Brooklyn

    Bobby Kennedy’s Impact: An Excerpt from The Fire Escape Belongs in Brooklyn     

         In March of 1968, Bobby Kennedy announced his candidacy for the presidency. His announcement sparked hope among many youths who faced the military draft, Vietnam War, campus protests, conflict with parents…and other societal issues that prompted raging tension that spread across generations, races, and politics.  Following is a scene from my novel, The Fire Escape Belongs in Brooklyn, where three young people hint at the issues, conflicts, hopes, and fears of that era.

           I drove the Camaro back to Katie's house with Erica riding next to me. From the back seat, Katie ordered the radio turned up to nearly full blast. Janice Joplin was singing about Bobby McGee (“That’s my Family Song!” Katie shouted) and Erica surprised me with a hair-flying Joplin impersonation, changing the lyrics from “Bobby McGee” to “Katie McGee,” so I chimed in with my best Bob Dylan voice.

         "Holy shit! It’s Joplin and Dylan!” Katie said. "What an act you two could put together!"

         When I found myself quickly imagining what it would be like to be in a band and on the road with Erica, I knew my mind was hopelessly working overtime.

         "Do you do any other impressions?" Erica asked.

         "Let’s see… how about Bobby Kennedy?" I asked.

         "Oh, I just love him," Erica said. It was the same simple, sincere tone she had used in talking about the Beatles' song "In My Life."

         I jabbed my right forefinger in the air and said in my best nasal stammer, "I would just like to shay...uh...that if you feel...uh...that way about him, then it's...uh...worth it for me to…uh…try to impersonate him."

         "Not bad, not bad at all!" Katie said. “It’s like RFK is here in the car with us, isn’t it E?”

         Erica made a mock squeal and shouted, “Bobbyyyy!” Then she quickly turned serious and said, "I think Kennedy has character, something that makes you believe in him, and he seems so empathetic to people less fortunate than he is…which is practically everyone, of course.  But my parents sure don't think much of him."

         "Oh, my parents can't stand him either," Katie said. "Dad says, 'Bobby Kennedy's a shanty Irishman born under a shamrock.’ I try to stay out of it myself, but I like what Kennedy says about Vietnam. It's a shitty mess there, I don't know if anyone can really stop what's going on."

         "Or anyone could stop it," Erica said flatly.

         "Maybe, but not soon enough," Katie said. "Not before Brian gets there."

         They exchanged a few more thoughts about their fears and their anger, and I turned off the radio as they spoke so I could listen more closely. When they stopped talking, Katie hummed to herself, Erica looked out at the black New Jersey night, and I drove, thinking about the words of two high school girls—two girls I barely knew, but two girls who clearly had thought about the war, its impact, the politicians leading our country—speaking personally, passionately, and I found myself considering, probably for the first time ever, how anonymous soldiers are to the people who are not fighting, to the people safe and secure in college classrooms, eating at burger joints, driving around in Austin-Healeys, sitting on fire escapes, and how blank the faces are that cross the TV screen—until you see the face of someone you know and love preparing to leave his home and family to go into battle for them and for millions of people he will never know.

     

  • Choosing the Right College...and a Glimpse of Wagner College

    Choosing the Right College…
    and a Glimpse of Wagner College
    by
    Chuck Cascio

    chuckwrites@yahoo.com

         
         As a former high school and university level teacher, I am sometimes asked for my thoughts about how high school students should conduct their college search. Considerable stress is often evident in the inquiry, as parents and grandparents worry about the increasing emphasis on “name” schools as prestige takes priority over other essential considerations students should be making. 
     
         What are those considerations? Well, based on my own experience in searching for a college and from what I have heard from students over the years, a successful choice largely boils down to three criteria:
         >Comfort
         >Enthusiasm
         >Personal Development Potential
         
         Here is my own story:

     

    Unknown

    Main Hall on the oval as you enter the campus of Wagner College, Staten Island, NY.
         My father drove me to New York to visit Wagner College on Staten Island, a small school I had only read about. I wanted to go to college in or near New York City, where I was born and where I had spent a great deal of my childhood despite having moved to suburban Washington, DC, when I was about five years old. So the trip to New York was a familiar one, a trip that always filled me with energy.      
         
         Wagner College was certainly not a “big name” school. I had discovered it in one of those gigantic books containing details of hundreds of colleges (Those of us of a certain age remember well what it was like to plow through those books!). I requested and received a catalog from Wagner and liked what it featured, especially the 15:1 student-to-teacher ratio. Even at age 17, one thing about which I was certain was this: Although the excitement of a large school environment appealed to me, large class sizes and too many other distractions would scatter my attention, which would undoubtedly negatively impact my academic performance.
         
         The details and pictures of Wagner intrigued me: Located on a scenic section of Staten Island called Grymes Hill, 400 feet above sea level—the highest natural point on the Eastern Seaboard south of Maine—several buildings on and around the campus had once been “vacation” residences of wealthy New Yorkers who used their picturesque Grymes Hill homes to escape the hectic city life. 
         
         When the school invited me for a visit and an interview with an admissions officer, my father and I made the trip together. My dad, a native of Brooklyn, knew all of New York well, including Staten Island, but he had never previously driven the steep road up Grymes Hill. At the top, both of us were mesmerized as we entered the isolated campus via a tree-lined oval with stunning glimpses of New York's waterways, bridges, ships, and the Statue of Liberty visible between lovely trees and buildings. A feeling grew inside me, one I could tell my father shared: This place was different; it vibrated with a quiet energy, a sense of individuality.
         
         During my interview, the attentive admissions representative asked about my interests and what motivated me to learn and why I thought Wagner might be right for me. I responded with insights that surprised me…and I noticed that the interviewer actually listened as I explained my need to feel engaged while in a classroom, my desire to hear from other students as well as from instructors, my description of learning as a participatory process.
         
         When I returned to the car, my father stood outside intently taking in the sweeping views of New York’s other four boroughs in the distance. "So what do you think?" he asked. 
         
         To this day, I remember exactly what I said to him, "If they will have me, Dad, this is where I am going."
         
         Somehow, a few other schools with student populations several times larger than Wagner's 1,500 students accepted me. But the image of Wagner, the small classes, the proximity to the energy of downtown New York, the closeness that I could sense on my tour of the campus, overroad what other schools had to offer. And when the acceptance letter from Wagner finally arrived, I said, "This is it!" 
         
         My parents were happy because I was happy...and I was happy because somehow I could feel what I believe is most important in making a decision about which college to attend: The fit was right. In Wagner, I had found a campus that made me comfortable, surroundings that made me feel that I could engage in academics and perhaps discover new things about myself. I was right...and attending Wagner remains one of the best decisions I have ever made. Classes were small, instructors were dynamic, students had interests similar to mine, and the opportunities on campus and in the city were endless.
         
         Today, Wagner has grown a bit with 1,800 undergraduate and 450 graduate students, but it maintains a 15:1 student-teacher ratio. Following are a few of the numerous accolades Wagner has received from various college evaluation services:
       
         >It is ranked sixth in the nation on the New York Times' list of “value added” colleges.
         >100% of its students work at an internship or practicum.
         >Its “Learning Communities” programs emphasize experiential learning applied to the real world and supported by deep research.
         >Its theater arts program is ranked fifth in the nation by Princeton Review.
         >Salaries of Wagner alumni rank in the top 14% nationally.
         
         Just as when I attended, the school reaches out to the vast resources of New York City to attract teachers and guest lecturers, to provide internships, and to establish partnerships. And the school has maintained its beautiful surroundings and classic buildings while carefully adding new technology and structures. In short, it still says to me, "This is a place to learn...about academia and about yourself."  
         
         Is Wagner College the right choice for every student? Of course not; no one school is right for everyone. But I firmly believe that the key to making the correct individual college choice is not to be overly focused on prestige or size or name recognition. Rather, students should visit schools and, while visiting, sit in on a class or two, get a sense of how they would fit in, and ask themselves, "Will I be comfortable here? Will I be enthusiastic about learning here? Will this school’s environment help me develop my skills, my relationships, and my unknown talents?”
       
         If there are positive answers to those questions, then I tell students this: 
         Make your decision. Go to your college and enjoy the full scope of learning.

    THE END

    Copyright: Chuck Cascio. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or quote all or segments, write to chuckwrites@yahoo.com.
  • Discussion Guide: The Fire Escape Stories, Volumes I&II

    It is always my honor to discuss my work with book groups. I am frequently asked if there are certain questions and/or topics that the group members should consider in advance of our session. Following is a guide that I have developed after the many discussion sessions I have led. I hope you find it helpful in your conversations! If you would like permission to distribute hard copies or digital copies of this guide, or if you would like to arrange for a book group discussion, please simply email me at chuckwrites@hyahoo.com. Thank you...and enjoy reading!--Chuck

     

    DISCUSSION GUIDE FOR—

    THE FIRE ESCAPE STORIES, VOLUMES I & II

    By Chuck Cascio

    1) What does the opening episode of Volume I imply beyond what is stated in the text?

    2) Have you ever sat on a fire escape? What did it feel like to you? What did you do there? If you have not ever sat on a fire escape, based on Volumes I&II what is the closest comparison you can make from your own life?

    3) What does the fire escape symbolize in these stories? Does the symbol change over time? If so, what does it come to symbolize?

    4) Describe how you picture the main characters--the narrator (Mikey), Sally-Boy, Big Sal, Massimo, and any others who stand out to you.

    5) Single out one secondary character whose role seems particularly significant in her/his impact on the boys' lives.

     

    nine episodes that make up Mike Burnss strongest childhood memories of living in Brooklyn New York in the 1950s. 2 2

     

    6) When Mike's family moves at the end of Volume I, what concerns for him  and expectations do you have of him as the family drives out of Brooklyn?

    7) How does the tone of the narration change in Volume II and what is the impact of that change on the reader?

    8) What does the narrator's reaction to various life events in Volume II such as racism, discovering that his neighbor is a female, seeing the increasing popularity of the Panificio and Sally-Boy's reaction to it, the JFK assassination, etc. affect you as the reader? How do those events seem to be shaping Mike's life?

    9) Identify at least three subtle events and/or passages that are most telling about the split occurring between the lives of the two boys.

    10) Has the fire escape saved anyone in these stories, symbolically or otherwise? Or does the fire escape imply the failure of attempts to save lives that are impacted by forces either outside of their control or forces that people refuse to accept?

    Copyright, Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved. For permission to make or distribute copies of this guide, please email chuckwrites@yahoo.com.

  • Free Previews of THE FIRE ESCAPE SERIES

    Summer's gone. Fall's looming. Time to find some moving, thought-provoking books for the months ahead. Allow me to humbly suggest that you do this for FREE:

    TAKE A WALK ON A BROOKLYN FIRE ESCAPE...SEE WHERE IT LEADS!

    With more than 100 5-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads combined, the three books in THE FIRE ESCAPE SERIES will make you laugh, cry, and remember. You can purchase just one book or two or all three: For a limited time, the entire package costs less than $10, including the Indie Award for Excellence Finalist, The Fire Escape Belongs in Brooklyn. To help you decide, here are links to FREE previews of all three books in the series:

    >The Fire Escape Stories, Volume Ihttp://a.co/84dhMFd

    >The Fire Escape Stories, Volume IIhttp://a.co/53BnS1G

    >The Fire Escape Belongs in Brooklyn ( A novel based on The Fire Escape Stories)http://a.co/5hV5Z0G

    Two cousins. One fire escape. Can it save them both? 

     

  • IN MEMORY OF BLANCHE CASCIO ON MOTHER'S DAY 2019

    IN MEMORY OF BLANCHE CASCIO (BIANCA ROSA BORZOMATI)—
    MOTHER’S DAY 2019
    By Chuck Cascio
    www.chuckcascioauthor.com
    chuckwrites@yahoo.com
     
    Note: My mother passed away on December 8, 2011. This tribute is based on the eulogy I delivered at her funeral service. 
         

         Of all the wonderful things about Mom–her smile, her laugh, her zeal, her innate and endless empathy—of all the things I will cherish, there are six words that she spoke to me many times under different circumstances that capture everything she was. The six words are: “Do it and get it done!”

         That’s right, “Do it and get it done!” was, in my mind, her trademark, her tagline, her personal creed. Those six words encapsulate her beauty, her energy, her commitment to life itself. 

         It is almost impossible for me to think of anything about my Mom in isolation. She was so much more than any one attribute alone:

         Mom was an aggregate, a composite, a medley of many beautiful, admirable qualities. So picture her and now picture the words, “Do it and get it done!” above her. Those words capture the incredible energy that infused her being, lit up a room, charmed the uncharmable, withered the villains. 

    momphoto1.jpeg     

         When you figure out what needs to be done, you simply do it and get it done. By doing it, you engage life’s challenges, you embrace its gifts, you experience its pain. But you must DO it…and get it DONE! 

         You do not linger over any task or misfortune—whether it is a husband off to war for two years, a brain tumor, the death of a spouse, a skull-crippling fall, or some other malady. No, you allow yourself to feel the pain, embrace the challenge, experience it intensely, assess what needs to be done in order to move on…and then you do it. And in doing it, you live.

         The six words may sound simplistic, but they are deeply complex. And those complexities were an intricate part of Mom’s beauty and strength and profoundly understated intelligence. Her grasp of complex world issues was rooted in that saying. She would read, discuss, listen, evaluate, and then articulate a position that would make scholars proud. 

         I remember as a child watching a production of “Romeo and Juliet” on our black-and-white TV with Mom and Dad, the fat volume of The Complete Works of Shakespeare open so we could all follow the text as we watched. No big talk; just passion for the work and the combination of multiple resources to create a lasting impression—great writing, a book, emotional interest, and a child. You see the chance to enjoy, to teach, to learn and you embrace it, you do it…and you get it done.

         I loved to joke with Mom, to tease her and to rile her up. One day while driving her back to her residence at Sunrise Assisted Living after taking her to the hair salon and then to lunch, we were bantering back and forth, so I said, “You better be careful, or I’ll put you and that wheelchair out on the street right here and see if you can wheel your way back to Sunrise.” 

         Mom paused just for a beat and then said, “Ha! Go ahead! Don’t think I can’t do it!” 

         And to be honest, I believe she could have done it. In fact, I think my Mom could do—or could have done—anything she had the chance to do. I don’t know anything that she set out to do that she didn’t do. And she infused our whole family with that wonderful spirit—to explore, to embrace, to laugh, cry, work, and love…and we are all better people for it.

         So you did it Mom, you did it and you got it done, and because you did, your family…from me, Michael, and Anna on through your beautiful grandchildren and great grandchildren…will carry your strength and beauty and love of life with us forever.  

    Copyright Charles Cascio, 2019, all rights reserved.

     

  • July 4th in DC: Then and Now

    July 4th in DC: Then and Now
    by Marc Cascio

    (Note my son Marc's thoughts on July 4 in DC as he recalls it...and now.--Chuck Cascio)

         I grew up going to the national mall for the 4th of July. It was awesome:

         The Beach Boys played, everyone chilled, some people overindulged, and the culminating event was always an incredible fireworks display. I always had a great time, but I always had this nagging feeling that something was missing, and now I know what it was: TANKS!!!

     

    Tanks roll into our Nation's Capital for the July 4 celebration.     

         Nothing celebrates winning our independence from England in the 1700s like four gigantic tanks to tear up the DC roadways and possibly flatten drunken celebrants! Yes, the Founding Fathers would be thrilled to know that the taxpayers are footing the bill for giant death machines to navigate narrow roadways full of revelers to satiate the desires of a president who has wanted to play with his tanks since he saw the French do it in a celebration back in 2017.

         I mean, who better to model a military celebration after than the French? Rumor has it that most of the citizens there surrendered during the course of the celebration in a Pavlovian response. That won't happen here though! In fact, I don't see any possible way that massive tanks, abundant alcohol, meager roadways that are insufficient for bearing the weight and traction devices of war machines, and a president with a massive ego who is disregarding the wishes of DC representative could result in anything but a covfefe time for all! 

        Happy 4th! And I thought I had it good with the Beach Boys and fireworks!

    copyright: Marc Cascio, all rights reserved.

  • Lessons in Racism: A Tribute to Donal Leace

    LESSONS IN RACISM--
    A Tribute to Singer, Songwriter, Teacher Donal Leace
    by
    Chuck Cascio

     

    It has been present all of our lives. We can look around and still see it. But it hits us hardest when something spurs our awareness and reminds us: Racism is real...it has been real...we have seen it ourselves, personally.   

    Donal Leace (no "d" at the end of his first name) was a Washington, DC-based Black singer, songwriter, entertainer, scholar, and teacher whom I met many years ago when I was 16 years old and working one memorable summer at my cousin's folk music club, the Shadows, in Virginia Beach. (Note: That club is not related to any club or restaurant that may have the same or similar name in Virginia Beach today.) I learned recently that Donal died of Covid in December 2020, and though I had not seen Donal in many years, hearing of his death brought back many memories...memories made all the more significant to me as the country engages in heated discussions about race. 

    One of my many jobs at the Shadows was to book hotel reservations for performers and then to greet them at the designated hotel when they arrived. Donal was scheduled to sing at the Shadows for a couple of weeks as the opening act. He drove down from DC (he lived in an apartment above the famous Cellar Door club in Georgetown), and I met him at the hotel where I had reserved his room. As we walked into the hotel together, a noticeable silence overtook the lobby. 

    When I reminded the man behind the desk, whom I had interacted with before, that I worked at the Shadows and that I had made a reservation for Donal, the man looked confused. He browsed a ledger intensely, flipped some pages, then finally looked up and said, "Sorry, got no reservation for him and no rooms are available. Fully booked." He scribbled something on a piece of paper and shoved it at me, saying, "But here is the address of a place where he can stay."

     

    Donal_Leace.jpeg

    Donal Leace: Singer, songwriter, teacher...

    I started to argue since I knew I had made the reservation and even had a confirmation number. But Donal tapped my shoulder and said, "I know what's going on here. Let's go." 

    We went outside into the beach sunlight and I started to blurt, "Donal, I'm sorry, I..."

    "It's not you, Chuck. This is what it is. You see what it is, right?"

    Of course I did--everywhere in Virginia overt racism was evident daily: The "Colored" restrooms and water fountains separate from "Whites Only" ones. The swimming pools with signage stating boldly, "No Coloreds." The segregated schools and neighborhoods. But in that moment with Donal, it all hit me hard, personally.

    We rode about 20 miles inland to the address the hotel clerk had given us, finally coming upon a dilapidated, sad building with a sign in front that read "Colored Motel." 

    "Guess I'll be making the trip from here to the club and back every night," Donal said matter-of-factly.

    Something swelled from inside me, and I said, "We have room at our house, Donal. Come stay with us!"

    Donal hesitated, then asked, "Are you sure? Will your roommates be okay with me?"

    "Yes," I said without hesitation, and we climbed into his car and rode back to the house I shared with three guys all in their early twenties. When we arrived, I explained to my roommates what had happened, and there was no hesitancy. Donal was given a room and throughout his stay, we all laughs and music together…but we shared other things, too, such as:

    After Donal's first night performing at the club, we all finished our closing chores, and I asked Donal if he wanted to join us at a local diner where we always went for our late-night/early-morning food and laughs. He came with us, and as we all entered the familiar diner on the main beach drag, I immediately recognized the evil quiet that blanketed us. We were quickly seated in a far corner booth by a waiter who knew us all, except for Donal, by name. 

    We introduced the White waiter to Donal, but the waiter simply turned away, refusing to shake Donal's extended hand. A minute or two later, the waiter returned and handed menus to each of us. Hungry, filled with the nightly relief of pulling off another successful club experience, we all started enthusiastically blurting out what we were going to order...except for Donal. He quietly perused his menu and, once the rest of us had quieted down, said, "Um, this place seems a little pricey, doesn't it?"

    In those days, you could get a club sandwich or scrambled eggs or fried chicken pieces for a dollar or two, so we were all surprised at Donal's comment. He smiled sadly, knowingly, and flipped over his menu so we could all see. Every item on his menu was at least 10 times the price shown on the rest of ours'! 

    One of my roommates angrily waved Donal's menu at the waiter.

    "What the hell is this?" the roommate said.

    "What do you mean?" the waiter said with a shrug.

    "You know damn well what I mean! You gave him a different menu than ours! Everything on his is much more expensive! Give him the right menu!"

    "That is the right menu...for him," the waiter said matter-of-factly. "So what can I get you guys?"

    With that, we all climbed out of the booth, and one of the guys got in the waiter's face and said, "We won't be back here. Ever."

    "Suit yourself," the waiter said, "but don't you go around saying we wouldn't serve him...and his kind. If he wants to pay, we'll serve him. If not, that's his choice."

    Yes, some things have changed since those days on Virginia Beach. But not enough. Racism still exists. It is, and has been, all around us. Think about what you have seen personally. Think about how it hit you. Think about how it hits others, daily.

    Racism is real. It is systemic. It must be addressed. 

    Thank you, Donal—for your music, laughter, friendship..and for the difficult lessons I learned from you during that brief stretch of summer.

    Copyright: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved.

    (Readers: Tell me your story, if you like. Nothing will be reprinted without your permission, and you will retain all rights of anything that is printed: chuckwrites@yahoo.com.)

     

     
  • Life In the Time of Corona (First in an unlimited series)

    Life In the Time of Corona--First in an unlimited series
    Baseball, where are ye?
    by Chuck Cascio
    chuckwrites@yahoo.com
     
    Baseball, where are ye?
     
    To me, you have always represented the start of the new year—
     
    the presence of spring and time spent outdoors amid flowering trees and watching kids take on the challenge of the bat and ball;
     
    the promise of summer ahead, replete with the gentle call of family, cookouts, beaches, and surf;
     
    the ultimate beauty of fall with a series of games that defy analysis, challenge athleticism, and truly identify the sport's heroes;
     
    Come back, baseball! 
     
    Soon! 
     
    You are missed!

    IMG 6772

     

    copyright text and photo: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved.

     
  • Life In the Time of Corona (Fourth in an unlimited series)

    Life In the Time of Corona (Fourth in an unlimited series)
    (Note: The following was written by my son Marc Cascio, who is in his 28th year
    of teaching high school and coaching youth soccer—Chuck Cascio)
     
    REALIZING ‘PURPOSE’ IN THE TIME OF CORONA 
    By Marc Cascio
         
         Before he died, my Grandpa Wells used to stand guard at the doors of the Sunrise Retirement home where he eventually passed away. Nobody, not even my mother, could explain why he assumed this role: certainly nobody asked him to and, though he had once been a stalwart and aggressive man who survived D-Day and was a known entity to high-up generals, in his later days he would have been ineffective at stopping nearly anyone who invaded the home. Still, every morning, as the other elderly people shuffled here and there and busied themselves with whatever filled the time, my grandfather took up his post at the door, and there he remained.
         
         I understand now. My grandfather was a man of action and had been for his whole life. He was on his own early, and the perpetual motion of the military provided sanctuary for his restless nature. If he was cleaning boots, he was doing so for a purpose, regardless of how important he viewed that purpose. By acting as a sentry, he created meaning for himself, and that meaning gave him purpose. He probably knew he wasn't really protecting his house any longer, but nobody said as much and the sense of  purpose fed his restless soul.

    form-submission-7154-worklifebalanceisimportant-desktop-768x495.jpg

         If nothing else, I have come to understand the meaning of purpose through this whole damned virus thing. I MISS my work! I MISS my students and my players! The time that I get to spend with my own family is wonderful, yes, but I miss feeling like more of a contributor. I know some may be inclined to think by saying that I am guilty of a transgression against my family, but part of my self importance is derived from my own children seeing me work hard and seeing me try to help others. I cannot divorce myself from that, and the days seem soooo long sometimes.

         The other day, in a moment of unwitting precociousness, our 13 year old, Zoey, said she misses school because it gives her purpose. I am not surprised. My mom doesn't need to work, but she still does. She works at a Sunrise facility and (sorry mom), but she is probably older than some of the residents. Yet she won't stop working. She will brave the virus, because not working is a worse fate. My dad's retirement too is a paradox: He works as hard now as he ever did, and that is harder than most everyone I know. His work gives him purpose. He won't stop.
         
         It is wrong, of course, to feel sorry for myself when I still have my health and when we are in a much better spot than many whose life and/or livelihood have been ripped away, but I still feel the absence of purpose. And I now understand what drives an old man to stand by a door protecting nothing in one sense…and everything in another.
     
    Copyright: Marc Cascio, all rights reserved.
     
  • Life In the Time of Corona (Second in an unlimited series)

    Life In the Time of Corona (Second in an unlimited series)

    My friend and former colleague John Scott, an outstanding teacher and baseball coach, wrote the following, expressing his own affection for our National Pastime. I am proud to publish it with his permission.

     

    Diamond Days
    by
    John Scott

    Diamond Days....

    Sights and sounds of days on the field…

    The aroma of the fresh cut field. The soft breeze kicks up the dust. 

    The smell of leather. The crack of the bat. 

    Cheers. Chatter. All of that. 

    You take the mound. He digs in at home. The catcher crouches, goes through his signs.

    You tip your hat, re-grip the ball, begin your wind-up and then let loose the mighty pitch.

    A curve spins along the way.

    wyatt_pitching.jpeg

     

    The batter peers, picks up the seams as the ball draws near.

    He sets his eyes, adjusts his stance, begins his swing...

    He’s got a chance!

    The swing is mighty. The crowd goes quiet as the ball meets the bat in a tremendous crack! 

    They all look up, race toward the ball. The left fielder sprints, lays out but can’t quite reach the ball. 

    The ump cries out, “FOUL BALL!” 

    It’s just one pitch, and there are many more.

    But to the boys it is so much more. 

    Each pitch, each swing, each throw and catch is set in their memory from the field that day. 

    There is something magical and therapeutic about playing—and watching—our  National Pastime! 

     

    About John Scott: John played baseball from Little League, Babe Ruth League, American Legion, and high school through college and then coached baseball for 19 years at three different high schools in Fairfax County, VA.

    Story copyright: John Scott, all rights reserved.

    Photo copyright: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved.

     

     

     

  • Life In the Time of Corona (Third in an unlimited series)

     
    Life In the Time of Corona (Third in an unlimited series)
    by Chuck Cascio
    chuckwrites@yahoo.com 

    As a former high school and college educator over the course of 27 years, I was curious to know how students today feel about most academic institutions being closed for the remainder of the school year. So I asked my niece, Caroline, and five of my grandchildren (Maddie, Jack, Ryan, Zoey, and Wyatt) to write a few sentences about how the coronavirus and school closings are affecting them. Here, in their own words, are their comments (from youngest to oldest):

    Wyatt (age 10; fifth grader)--The  coronavirus pandemic is a little bit scary to me because I have no school for the rest of the year. Coronavirus is a weird thing to handle for me because I cannot walk to any friends' houses or speak to any friends in person. I have no idea what to do now. I can't be near anyone or make any contact with anyone. I do go outside a lot and am bored when I can't go outside.

    Zoey (age 13; eighth grader)--The corona quarantine and the virus in general will never be forgotten and will be a future history lesson. The quarantine has left a lot of different feelings to a lot of different people. To some, it might be an extended summer. To others, it is a serious pandemic. I believe that this is a serious time which should not be treated as a time to hang out with friends all day and go out to the mall or play games of any sort. Even though school was closed for the rest of the year, it is important to spend some of the day studying what you already learned during the year. Overall, I believe that this time should not be taken lightly because the virus is killing and infecting millions a day all over the world. 

     

    image.png

    School grounds midday and midweek in the time of coronaphoto by chuck cascio

    Ryan (age 14; high school freshman)— My time during the coronavirus has been a mixture of feelings. At first, this time off was the best thing ever--school was out, I could hang with my friends all day and nothing was better than this! Then my feelings started to change--my parents started saying no to hangouts, and I couldn’t hang with my friends as much. All in all, this “coronacation” has been a mixture of having fun with my friends, boredom, and overall getting more sleep!

    Jack (age14; high school freshman)—This coronavirus quarantine has left me extremely bored and often wondering what I should do with my time. i have been able to practice sports in my backyard and lift weights in my garage. I wish this could all be over and everything would go back to normal. 

    Maddie (age16; high school junior)—While I will admit I was one hoping for a few days off of school to make up for the missed snow days, this was not what I expected. I miss not having things to go to and do. I miss spring sports and school friends, and I miss a normal routine. Lately, at home, I have been spending a lot of time trying to do things outdoors. I refuse to sit inside all day and not do anything...it was making me go crazy! I am hoping to make the best of this and hope this all comes to an end soon so we can all get back to normalcy. 

    Caroline (age 19; college freshman)--Although being quarantined in our houses is not fun, I think that it is the right thing to do to flatten the curve. I have taken all of this extra time to start a 400-hour violin practice challenge where I post videos of me playing each day. In addition to focusing on violin, I have also been cooking and baking a lot more, which I was unable to do during my time on campus each week. Finally, I think this has been a great time for everyone to reflect on their lifestyles and daily choices. Fewer people are going places, which isn’t fun, but it’s making the planet greener and reducing carbon emissions; people are eating healthier because they are forced to cook more or learn to cook; more people are contacting each other because they aren’t caught up in their own lives and activities; and people are forgiving themselves for not being busy and giving them “me time” where they learn or practice a skill that they’ve always wanted to do. Even though a lot of people’s new year resolutions might be messed up by this virus, we will be able to take this time to start new goals and find fun workouts to do at home by yourself or with your family! 

    Have a comment or a story to add to the "Life in the Times of Corona" series? Write to me at chuckwrites@yahoo.com.

    copyright chuck cascio; all rights reserved.

     
  • March Howls, 1968

    Excerpt from THE FIRE ESCAPE BELONGS IN BROOKLYN by Chuck Cascio

          March howled through the Ides, each day bringing grisly new horrors. We plucked pistachios from a huge bowl in front of Bingham's color TV, sucking the sweet salted green nuts from their red shells, spitting the hulls into a wastebasket, fingers and lips stained blood-red with dye, we judged…and we theorized about the slaughter we were seeing:

          Bingham: "Soldiers do what they have to do."

          Bobby: "Overdo it just a little, maybe, bro? This war gonna kill us all; everyone in this fucking room."

         Bingham: "Who's to say we overdo it?"

         Moon: "What the hell, man, we are to say…I mean, someone gotta say somethin!"

         Fish: "Stuff happens. It’s war."

         Me:  "Does that mean it has to happen again and again?"

         Bobby: "All them people bein mowed down every day, like the cows in that movie Hud.”

         Moon: "Yeah, but those cows had a disease, man; all that these people have is slanty eyes."

         Bobby: "Sometimes that's all it takes to build the wall, right, brother?"

         Moon: “Say, you got that right—slanty eyes, different religion, different language, diff…er…ent skin. Just about any goddam thing’ll do if people want to hate bad enough. And one thing you can count—people sure enough want to hate.”

         We watched and thought and surmised and wondered and assured and speculated; to me, the world seemed increasingly littered with garish obscenities, human slaughter, human suffering, personal loss, vanishing youth:

         The Erica I met that night with Bingham was gone; the night of winning pool was an innocent piece of history; my Bob Dylan story seemed juvenile; Sally-Boy was a lingering dream becoming less real than our fire escape; the Fish I knew was morphing into something unrecognizable before my eyes, his wild mass of hair suddenly neatly trimmed; ancient Vietnamese watched their culture explode; young servicemen returned limbless…or not at all…and we sat in the now-vulnerable room of a college campus and watched life change while we ate pistachio nuts and, eventually, washed their red stain from our fingers.

    Copyright: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved

  • MY FATHER'S HOUSE--A posthumous 100th birthday tribute

    MY FATHER’S HOUSE

    By

    Chuck Cascio

    My father, Modesto “Morris” Cascio, was born on August 19, 1919 and passed away far too young.

    This is my modest tribute to him in the month of his hundredth birthday.

         His house blossomed as he walked Brooklyn’s streets helping his father bring home meat, bread, and occasionally a small piece of cake from the Depression-induced lines filled with hungry people in a land that once held promise for them all. 

         Remarkably, the promise remained inside him in the form of the house taking shape slowly within his agile mind, a mind capable of seeing hope during the days and nights on those dark streets miles and years away from the home in the rolling hills of Virginia that gradually grew as real to him as the stench of beer billowing from the brewery near the tenement where he lived with his parents, a sister, and two brothers. 

         His house evolved out of the spirit of his mind and took shape through his own will and desire. But first, he fought in the Second World War and then, four years after it ended, he took his small, beautiful wife and me and moved us out of Brooklyn, leaving behind the tenements, the stale brewery odors, his siblings, and his parents as one life slipped forward and the other slipped into the past but both made up the man who left Brooklyn. 

         The move saddened his immigrant father whose greatest fear was to lose any of his four children. All three of his sons had returned safely to Brooklyn after the War, but their wartime departure and his fears for their safety had turned his hair gray and furrowed his brow. Now this son—the second eldest child, the son who loved jazz and opera and who could make his mother laugh by turning her through a new dance step and who read someone named Shakespeare and who showed kindness to his siblings through a tease, a taunt, or an embrace—this son said he would be leaving because he felt a new life and a house growing inside of him. 

         Before he left, he assured his father, “Papa, you will hear from me often and we will visit, and you and Mama will visit us too. You’ll see; it will be good—good for you and good for me and for my family.” 

         The house he built in that strange land called Virginia became him—solid brick, 

    sturdy with quiet nuances of beauty, and a yard filled with trees and rolling emerald fields of grass. With dignity and simple elegance it faced the street—a street that began as dirt, eventually graduated to gravel and, then, finally to asphalt as the world around both him and his house began to change…a world that had graduated in stages inside him as he grew from a dreamer, to a man making dreams come true, and eventually to his fulfillment of a new life. 

    thumb IMG 6659

    My father’s house—our house—just outside of Vienna, VA.

         Every morning I watched as just prior to sitting at the kitchen table he would silently glance outside at the backyard, a view unimaginably different from the narrow streets and alleyways of his youth. Sometimes he nodded quickly and seemed to smile at the contrast. At other times, with his ever-present newspaper folded tightly under his arm, he would open the back door and stand there for several minutes, carefully surveying what was now his—and ours from him—before quietly sitting down. 

         How many days did I watch him sit at the breakfast table already in his suit and tie, reading his morning newspaper, ready for office work…another thing he had once only imagined but now lived?  He would sip coffee and occasionally give me and my younger brother and sister subtle reminders about how to behave, encouraging us to work our hardest, helping us understand that we must have a dream and we must be willing to pursue it. 

        And there were those times he would call us all together, excited about some small idea that had emerged: 

          “How about if we nail a backboard to that tree way in the backyard so you can practice shooting baskets anytime you want?” 

          “Let’s have a cement patio put in right at the bottom of the back steps connecting to the carport; then we can all eat outside!”

         “Gotta get together this weekend to start raking up the leaves. Fall is here!” 

         And in those brief, informal family meetings, he made his house and his dreams a part of his reality, a part of us, a part of all that we would be.

         His father visited the house only once. I still can see my grandfather, a Sicilian immigrant, sitting on the cement patio by the carport on a plastic and aluminum lawn chair, looking confused, as if he had once again migrated to a foreign country…this place with trees and space and fresh air. Over several days, he gradually sat smiling comfortably as he smoked a short, crooked, black cigar, sipped wine, and looked up occasionally from his Italian magazine to glance at the sky. On the day he left, a tear formed as he held his son, and the son, being the kind of man who could kiss his father, did just that. 

         His father returned to the solid streets of Brooklyn, his  place, the place he  had imagined as a boy who left Sicily with a dream, but he had briefly experienced the air and space of his son’s house and had seen the man his son had become. Neither man had regrets and both men knew they would always share certain realities—the family, the bread lines, the beer stench, the War, the fear of detaching from where you are and losing the essentials of who you are…but the absolute importance of taking that step. 

           After his father left, my father again quietly surveyed what was his and what he had become…the foundation of his being. Through his house he had proved that there is no detachment where there is real love; there is only an emergence of things that at first exist in the spaces of the mind, then take root in the soul, and eventually blossom from the heart.

         I have wanted so much of what he had, but nothing has consumed me more than his house—not the structure or the eclectic décor nor the lasting irrefutable loveliness of its grounds—no, it is not the house itself  that I have wanted. It is his quiet pride, his brilliant vision, his deep courage, his belief that this was it! He had achieved his sense of place and he had fulfilled the hope that had grown from the depths of his heart and his mind. He had absorbed the risks, built a new life, and shared it all with those he loved. 

         My father had taken his dream to reality and, in doing so, he had planted dreams inside us all.

    THE END

    Copyright: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved.

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
  • Of Vice and Men--Life In the Time of Corona (Seventh In An Unlimited Series)

    Life In the Time of Corona (Seventh In An Unlimited Series)
     
    Of Vice and Men
    By
    Marc Cascio
     

    Chuck's Note: Marc Cascio is my son and (I don't mind saying!) an outstanding English teacher, soccer coach, father, and viewer of humanity. He originally posted this piece on Facebook; it is reprinted here with his permission.

         I once heard a great story about a Jewish shopkeeper in Germany just before the Holocaust. The poor shopkeeper was besieged by a small clan of German youths who would stand outside of his store and hurl antisemitic invectives at him. The young men terrified customers away and deeply upset the shopkeeper and his family. One day, the shopkeeper had an idea- he confronted the hoodlums and said, "I will pay you two deustscmarks per person per day to stand her and insult me". The bewildered Germans laughed and escalated their tirades. After two days, the shopkeeper came out and said, " Very well done! For the next few days, I will pay you five deutschmarks per person per day to stand here and insult me". Again, the young Germans ramped up their assault, laughing at the crazy Jewish man paying them to insult him and drive his business away. After a few days, the shopkeeper approached the teens and said " You have done such a fine job that I can no longer afford to pay you. I am afraid there will be no more money". The leader of the thugs responded, "We will not stand here all day for free!" and they all left. 

         I cannot prove the veracity of the story, but in my mind the principle can be easily proven: avarice supersedes reason. For most, if not all of us, we can always find a way to justify getting what we want. Don't believe me? Then why do so many people have staggering credit card debt? Why go out to eat when you have a freezer full of food and say " Well, we deserve this"?  

         I am a teacher though, and I have further proof. You can get students to do almost anything by uttering one two word term - EXTRA CREDIT! The student who is failing hopelessly and the student whose average is pinned at 100 alike will do most anything for it. Hell, as a teacher, you don't even have to really DELIVER it, you just have to SAY you will. The term "extra" makes it seem like they are getting something special and exceptional, and you can make students dance (trust me) for it.

         If you need further proof, check out the "Singer Solution to World Poverty" or, better yet, read the amazing short story "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" by Ursula LeGuin - spoiler alert: the person you wish you were, would walk, the person you are, would never.

         So, what's the point? 

         The pictures below are of Ocean City, Maryland's boardwalk on Memorial Weekend and of Virginia Governor, Ralph Northam, maskless and greeting people at Virginia Beach. (Northam has since apologized.)


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         For the masses at Ocean City, the desire to be out and enjoying a beautiful Memorial Day weekend supersedes the ignorant actions of gathering like this in the face of a pandemic! If you rolled out the corpses of the 100,000 that this thing has killed on to the boardwalk, people wouldn't come. However, because the threat isn't immediate, and because people are too thick headed to postpone what they DESIRE instead of doing what is right, some of these people will get sick, and some of those who do will either die themselves or transmit the virus to those who will die.

         For Northam, he evidently (at the time, at least) lacked the moral and intellectual fortitude to forego acting in a manner that he would condemn in others in order to attain photo ops to further his own agenda. I am quite sure Northam would blast Trump for his Michigan idiocy, yet here he is hypocrisizing himself for what I assume is to curry political favor.

         A virus is stupid and egalitarian. It doesn't discriminate between smart or stupid hosts, black , white, or any other color hosts, gay or straight hosts, or religious or atheistic hosts. It just does its thing provided the opportunity. It isn't even malicious: it's a mindless predator of primitive derivation.

         Science and religion don't converge often. How ironic would it be if a virus, at the bottom of the evolutionary realm, were to decimate humans, at the top of the evolutionary realm, because we refused to use the gift of intelligence bestowed upon us via evolution or a creator due to the Biblical sins of greed, pride, and vanity? Eschewing common sense in favor of transient happiness may be the curse of humanity, emanating from its supposedly greatest asset. 

    Copyright Marc Cascio; all rights reserved.

    Comments? Write to chuckwrites@yahoo.com

  • READING AND DISCUSSION GUIDE: The Fire Escape Belongs in Brooklyn

    Reading and Discussion Guide for
    THE FIRE ESCAPE BELONGS IN BROOKLYN
    By
    Chuck Cascio

    NOTE: If you would like  to discuss any of these items with me, please email me at chuckwrites@yahoo.com.

     
    1) What is the tone established in the Prologue and Chapters 1-3? How does it contribute to the story arc and how does it tie to Volumes I&II?
     
    2) Throughout much of the book, Mike "talks" to Sally-Boy. Do his "conversations" and recollections seem to calm Mike or do they seem to cause an increased sense of despair and desperation?
     
    3) Chapters 8-11 are often referred to as indicative of a turning point in Mike's thinking. If you agree with that position, what are some of the specifics that occur in those chapters that imply a change and is that change a sign of maturation or further frustration or both?
     
    4) Chapters 12-19 immerse readers in several realities that Mike and others of his generation face. Consider Mike's initial reaction to Erica, how his feelings develop, and what elements of his nature seem to be emerging. At the same time, consider what his roommate, Fish, is like and how interactions with Darrell Bingham affect them both and, also, what Bingham seems to represent.
     
    5) Chapter 20 ties together several elements of life during the Vietnam Era upon which much of the book focuses. Of those elements, what emerges as having the greatest impact of that time and which, if any of those elements, still seem prevalent today?
     
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    6) As relationships emerge and develop between Mike and Erica and Fish and Katie, what aspects of their personalities seem to come through most prominently. Which, if any, of those aspects seem positive and which, if any, seem troubling to you?
     
    7) Chapters 31-33 move the reader from a party where the song "Satisfaction" has a real and symbolic role to deeper thinking on Mike's part about where he is headed. What are some of the key scenes (if any) that indicate to you a change in the depth of the characters and what are some of the implications of those changes?
     
    8) As the storyline develops, the role of Professor Staunton emerges as more prominent as does the impact of the Vietnam War. These elements combine to result in decisions that some people might consider heroic and others might consider objectionable. How do you feel about the decisions the characters make both in context of the story and in reality?
     
    9) Chapter 48 focuses on a ferry ride that Mike and Erica take. What do you think of the character development in that chapter? Do you see any foreshadowing of what is to come?
     
    10) Chapters 49-53 are filled with character elements that move the story to various points of dramatic conclusion. What is unexpected? What did you anticipate? How were you affected by the different events that impact the characters?
     
    11) In the Epilogue, do you feel that Mike has resolved his issues with Sally-Boy's disappearance? Do you think that Mike does justice to Sally, or is there more that he should do and, if so, what should it be?
     

    Copyright: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved.

     
  • The Day of the MLK Assassination-April 4, 1968

    Prof. Staunton Speaks on the Day of the MLK Assassination-April 4, 1968:

    An Excerpt from my novel, THE FIRE ESCAPE BELONGS IN BROOKLYN 

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074V8CRGX

         “Langston Hughes asks us if dreams deferred dry up like raisins in the sun or if they stink like fetid meat and, of course, he must know the answer is yes to both—we know both are true because we see those truths in people every day, people who dry up with their dried up dreams, shrivel with their emaciated love affairs—and yet Hughes tries to convince us that it is wrong to give up on dreams because if we do, as he puts it in another poem, ‘Life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.’

         “So the same man who poses the question in one poem, ‘What happens to a dream deferred?’ warns us in another that without dreams our lives will not fly. If you are writers, you are dreamers by definition, so you must wrestle with Mr. Hughes’s thoughts—some of you will, some won’t, some will be haunted by dreams deferred, some will forget about dreams altogether, some will look around and dream of outrageously ostentatious houses—the measure of opulence today being size and amount whether in square footage of homes or horse power or number of cars—and exotic vacations and perhaps beachfront mansions and cabin cruisers.

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        “So many of you will be fickle to the dreams and words and passions that move you now, and by letting it all dry up or trading it all in, you will become vulnerable repeatedly to what we should have seen coming:

        “The squeezing of the trigger of the rifle whose scope was focused on Martin’s round black head, the assassin waiting, holding steady, calm, a horrifying distortion of Hemingway’s grace under pressure, slowly focusing on the hairs that covered the epithelial cells drawn tight across the cranium that stored one man’s extravagant and bold dreams—the perverted assassin turning his perverted dream into reality as he fired and felt the powerful kick of the rifle butt warm against his shoulder, and in the instant that he blinked from the explosion and smelled the acrid odor of gunpowder, he watched through his scope Martin’s exploding head, while inside that broken head confused and gasping dreams now spun madly in milliseconds into blackness and then hurtled out the exit wound or dripped out of the entry wound.

         “The assassin ended those dreams, betting that all of us will let them all dry up along with our own dreams, which we will trade in for comfort; in so doing, the assassin hopes to turn you all into assassins, murderers, killers, hypocrites. After all, he had the courage to act on his perverted dream and to gamble that we are not as courageous about pursuing dreams as he is. So what happens, I ask you, to a dream deferred and deferred and deferred and deferred…” 

         Staunton repeated the word, banging his fists on the podium while we sat in a silence only death itself could duplicate, until, finally, after screaming the word “deferred” one more time, his voice cracked into falsetto, and the blue veins in his neck bulged like tree roots, and his face shone like a beacon, and he looked up, panting, into the face of the tall woman with the long hair, who was noiselessly crying, and extended his arms to her. She embraced him, his white hair touching just below her mouth.

    Copyright Chuck Cascio; all rights reserved