The 100th Anniversary of the Wall Street Bombing

At 12:01 pm on September 16, 1920, a bomb exploded in the financial district of Manhattan in New York City. 30 people died instantly with 8 more deaths to follow. 143 additional people were injured. It was the deadliest terror attack on American soil up to that point.

According to Wikipedia, this crime was never solved, but it is suspected that it was carried out by Italian anarchists. It had to do with postwar social unrest, labor struggles, and anti-capitalist agitation. (Sound familiar?)

The bomb rolled up on a horse drawn carriage, times being what they were. It consisted of 100 pounds of dynamite and 500 pounds of shrapnel. Given that there was a timer, you’d think the terrorist would have had the decency to save the horse, but no. The driver escaped, though. Of course.

The explosion mostly took out young, lower level employees; messengers, clerks and the like. That hardly seems fair. But of course none of this was fair.

It also caused 2 million dollars in property damage, which would be worth nearly 26 million today. It was no accident that this happened at lunch hour at the busiest intersection of Wall Street. You can still see remnants of the damage to this day.

Needless to say, trading on the New York Stock Exchange was suspended immediately. James Saul, aged 17, took a car and spent a good deal of time transporting 30 people to hospital. I bet he turned out to be an amazing person. Unfortunately, that information seems to be lost to history.

So anxious were they to get back to business as usual that they cleaned the area up that night, destroying a lot of evidence. But flyers were found that said, “ Free the political prisoners, or it will be sure death for all of you. American Anarchist Fighters.” It is now assumed that the political prisoners referred to were Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian anarchists who were erroneously arrested (and later electrocuted) for murdering two people.

So there you have it. A bit of history to enjoy while eating your corn flakes this morning. You’re welcome.

Not a good day to be on Wall Street.

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Vancouver Food

One of the best things about Vancouver, Canada, is the food. It’s a city by the sea, and it’s very much an international town. That bodes well for seafood, as well as Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, First Nations, Italian, Greek… you name it, they have it in Vancouver.

I’m told the best things to eat during a visit are salmon and sushi. And I’ve read that the sushi is much more affordably priced than anything you can find in an American metropolis. I wouldn’t know, not being a sushi person myself. But the salmon? Yes please. And keep it coming!

Vancouver is surrounded by farm country as well, so if you have a chance to eat fresh, seasonal produce and dairy products, do so. You’ll notice the difference. Make yourself a picnic lunch and eat it in Stanley Park, while taking in the view. There could be no better dining experience than that!

Whenever I travel, I try to avoid chain restaurants. I like to support the local economy. I also know that starting a Mom and Pop restaurant is a risky proposition at best, so it feels good to lend them a hand whenever possible. Some of the most delightful meals I’ve ever eaten have been possible because of this practice. It’s not as much of a risk as it used to be, because we all have access to on-line reviews.

So, do your homework, and get out there and dive into the culinary richness of Vancouver. You’ll be glad you did.

Vancouver Food

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A Random Story

Sometimes when I can’t think of anything to write, I’ll rely on the Random Word Generator for inspiration. That made me wonder if there was a Random Image Generator. Yay! There is! So today I decided to get a random image and then write about it. What follows is the story I came up with about this picture:

fruit-stall

To the casual observer, Gianni may have looked exhausted. This would have been a reasonable assumption, too, because he had to go to the produce wholesaler every morning at 4 a.m. in order to get the best fruit and vegetables for his stall. And for Gianni, nothing but the best would do.

That “nothing but the best” concept was rather new to him. A year ago he was running the streets with no real purpose or goal. The only consistent routine in his life was stopping by to visit his grandfather at this very stall, just as he had done every day since he was old enough to walk.

His grandfather was larger than life. He never took a day off, and yet he was always smiling. Oh, and how he loved his grandson! When he spied a younger Gianni running across the piazza, he would throw his arms wide and embrace him roughly, as if he hadn’t seen him in years.

Gianni would help himself to an apple or an orange and listen to Nonno talk about his day, and recount what was happening in the neighborhood. Mrs. Rossi was going to have another baby. The Conti’s daughter was going to be a doctor. The Bruno’s dog kept stealing carrots from the stall. (And yet Nonno never moved the carrots.) The stories would make Gianni smile. He loved these visits.

What he loved most was that Nonno never criticized him, no matter how much trouble he got into. Somehow he managed to express disapproval without berating him like his mother would. The message was silent but clear: “I love you, but I expect more from you. I know you’ll get there someday.”

That’s why Gianni never quite gave up. He just… he didn’t know what to do with his life, that’s all. He knew he’d never be a doctor like the Conti girl. University was out of reach for his family. And besides, his ambitions weren’t that grand. He knew he would live in this same neighborhood for the rest of his life, not because he was trapped, but because he wanted to. This was his home. He just needed to find his purpose.

Then one morning Mr. Gallo came pounding on his door to tell him that Nonno had a heart attack “or something” and had been taken to the hospital in the city. Gianni was not to worry. It was probably nothing. But could he watch the stall for the day?

This was Nonno’s way of distracting him. Of course he would worry. But Nonno’s stall had been open every day for 40 years. It wouldn’t seem right if it were closed. So Gianni got dressed and headed for the market.

The produce had already been delivered. Piled on the sidewalk haphazardly in splintery wooden crates, it had yet to be put on display. Gianni set to work.

He stacked everything neatly, just as he had seen Nonno do a thousand times. Not a single bean or tomato out of place. The stall was like a work of art. It said to all the passersby, “This is quality. Buy here.” The splintery crates were stacked in the alley for retrieval. And thus began the day.

Nonno recovered, thank God, but he had to slow down. So that summer, Gianni ran the stall for him. It was only temporary. Gianni’s friends would ride by and call him an old man. But a funny thing happened. He discovered that he didn’t care. He had found his purpose.

When the leaves started changing colors on the trees, Nonno sat down with Gianni and they both agreed that it was time. It was time for Gianni to take his rightful place in the family business. Besides, Nonno was enjoying feeding the pigeons as well as that damned carrot thief of a dog, and playing bocce ball with men he had known since the first grade. Now it would be Nonno’s turn to visit Gianni every day.

On the day Nonno took this picture, he could have told that casual observer that what he was seeing was not exhaustion. It was contentment and pride. It was the way things were always meant to be. It was just taking Gianni a while to figure it out, so Nonno had to give him a push. With his heart.

Now, how to get him to notice that Conti girl…

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Tony the Ice Cream Man

When I was little, there was an ice cream truck that routinely visited the Connecticut projects where we lived. For people who couldn’t afford vacations, it was one of the few ways you could really tell that summer had arrived. That, and at the tail end of the baby boom the neighborhood was lousy with kids. You couldn’t have come up with a better place to sell ice cream if your life depended on it.

Our ice cream truck was run by an Italian guy named Tony. Whenever we’d hear that distinctive ice cream truck music (you know the kind. “Turkey in the Straw” was the most popular.) you would hear kids screaming, “Tony! Tony!” for blocks. We all would be running into our houses to beg our mothers for money, and it seemed unbelievably urgent, because for some reason we were convinced that if we didn’t hurry, he’d drive away before we made our purchases. Using the hindsight of an adult, it’s obvious that the man wasn’t going anywhere. We were his bread and butter, just as he was our sugar.

I always got the same thing. A grape Italian ice. Only once did I get adventurous and try something different, and I knew the instant I tore off the wrapper that I wouldn’t like it. Tony’s assistant, probably his younger brother, noticed this. He took it from me, took a bite out of it, and then said, “Hey Tony! Whada ya doin’, trying to sell dis little girl some ice cream wid a bite outta it? Are you crazy, or what?” Tony gave me my Italian ice that day, and taught me a little bit about customer service, too. He winked at me.

As the years went on, Tony left and was replaced by someone else, but we all still called him Tony. And to this day, whenever I hear an ice cream truck, I think, “Tony! Tony!” and it makes me smile.

The man went to his grave without knowing what an impression he had made on me. He was, without a doubt, one of the best things about my childhood. Thanks, Tony!

ice cream

[Image credit: festivals-and-shows.com

Views from my Windows—Part One

One of my first memories of any type of view was the sagging wooden third floor balcony of our shabby tenement apartment. I lived in fear of this view, because every time I stepped out of the house it was a certainty that our neighbor would be lying in wait. She was this loud old Italian lady with the most enormous breasts I had ever seen in my short life, and every time she would see me, she’d chase me down the hall and hug me until I was sure I’d suffocate in her cleavage. I don’t know what terrified me more: that woman, or the idea that that whole ratty building would collapse around us. But with no child support from my father, not one penny, ever, we were lucky to have any type of roof over our heads at all.

From there we moved into what would now be called HUD housing. It was a duplex on a corner lot, and I always assumed the yard was as big as a baseball diamond, because I’d watch my sister play kickball out there on what seemed like a daily basis. Imagine my shock when I came back to see it as an adult and saw it was about 20 feet square at most. But the lilac bush that my mother planted is still there. As an interesting side note, my other sister’s first boyfriend lived in the other half of the duplex. Then, he liked to play the drums along with Beatles records. Now, he’s in prison for serial rape. Go figure.

IMG_1160

From there we soared to the pinnacle of my residential life, for my mother remarried. We moved to a mansion, and we each had our own room. The place was called, ironically, Climax Heights, and it looked out upon a sweeping green expanse and towering trees that were perfect for climbing, and a babbling brook down the road which led to an artist enclave where they all grew to know me by name. We had a fireplace and my mother began to smile because she was finally able to get her teeth fixed. What a heavenly period. Granted, my stepfather gave me the creeps, but I was too young to understand why.

It was from there that things went to shit. My stepfather’s boss was relocating to Florida, and told him if we followed, he’d have a job there. So we decided to camp our way from Connecticut and down the coast. About the time we hit Virginia, the boss died, and no one wanted to give a job to a 350 pound old man with questionable intelligence. My stepfather briefly got a job managing a crappy apartment building that was in such a horrible neighborhood that I was not allowed to go outside. Ever. Having been uprooted from the only state I knew, my grades in school plummeted. My view was of the train tracks across the street, and the mattresses had to be burned because they were covered in some form of parasite. Needless to say, that job didn’t last long.

So next we lived in our tent. It was all we had. My view for the next 7 years was the campground, with its ever changing neighbors. To this day I can’t stand baked potatoes, which was sometimes all we had to eat. My mother sent out one last plea to my biological father, but no help was forthcoming from that quarter. So we went on welfare yet again. That’s when I started working. At age 10 I grew and sold houseplants and from that income I was able to buy school clothes. In the mean time I learned, to my everlasting regret, exactly why my stepfather gave me the creeps. Suffice it to say he was a horrible man who stole my childhood, and my ability to feel safe in this world was forever destroyed.

My goal in life after that was to go to college and get away from my stepfather. Just as I was about to do that, my oldest sister, who had joined the Air Force, bought my mother a house. My view from there was the back door of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. I was always confused as to the day of the week, because I’d keep forgetting that they held their services on Saturday. But the library was two blocks away and I had a room with privacy again, and that was all I cared about. And besides, I was about to go to college. Free at last!

To be continued in Part Two….