Thursday, July 26, 2007

9 to 5

Searching for a job that not only pays the bills but also the mind and the soul, is beginning to wear me down. I’ve had interviews for development/fundraising positions with Teach for America and New Yorkers for Parks. On Monday, I interviewed at UNICEF (for a temporary position) as an admin. I've signed up with a staffing agency that specifically serves nonprofits. And after two months of being here, bupkis.

Now wait a minute, you might be thinking, isn't he forgetting why he came to New York? Shouldn't he be worried about feeding his soul with preparing for auditions, reading plays, and going to see the world-class theatre on offer? Yes, yes and yes. But after five years of putting heart and soul into my previous job, I'm finding it's not so easy to get a mindless job and try to focus elsewhere.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Martellis

I had a wonderful experience this past weekend: meeting my grandmother's cousins, Tom and Emma (and their delightful spouses and children) and her uncle (Uncle Tony of family lore), a 94-year-old first-generation Italian immigrant as sharp now as ever. He remembers a staggering amount of information about our family and it's trials and tribulations. My great-grandfather Patrick (Pasquale) Martelli and his brother Alex scrimped and saved during the war years and after to send for Uncle Tony and his family. In 1955, and I think somewhat reluctantly, Uncle Tony and his family (his wife, daughters Dorothy and Emma, and son Tom) arrived by boat through New York. From there, they took what Tom described as a 4-day journey by train to the terminus of the Northern Pacific Line (Tacoma, WA). It was rough going for a time, especially to arrive in Tacoma knowing very little English an where few if any spoke Italian. Eventually, Uncle Tony's family migrated eastward (except for Dorothy who married and stayed in Tacoma) to Long Island, New York, where they still reside today. They live in Flushing, an old Italian neighborhood that more recently has become a haven for new immigrants from even further East, mainly Chinese and Thai.

So Saturday night was my first home-cooked meal since arriving in New York (I, of course, have been cooking, but cooking for one sucks). Antipasti (sharp provolone, hard salami, and another cured meat); rigatoni with a delightful tomato sauce; sauteed green beans with olive oil and vinegar; amazing grilled zucchini, eggplant and peppers dripping with olive oil; a light and fresh cucumber and tomato salad; grilled steak, lamb, sausage, and chicken; dessert of fruit with delightful cookies and pastries; and finally capped off with espresso and choice of sambuca or anisette. I was stuffed, and Tom's wife Connie (the masterful cook behind most of what made it to the table) made sure I went home with a goody bag. And all I had brought was a bottle of Washington wine! And even that was quickly forgotten when I learned that Emma's husband, Frank, makes his own wine and he'd of course brought a large bottle. His wine was definitely young, much different from commercial wine, very very strong, and I think an acquired taste. I really liked it, but I'm not sure most people would.

As lively as the food was the conversation, nearly 50% of which it seemed was in Italian. I caught a few words here and there, and Tom was so good about keeping me involved. He even told me at one point that Emma and Connie's mother, Maria, were speaking in a dialect that isn't even used or taught anymore! This was fascinating and definitely a different experience for me. Tom filled me in on much of what happened in the intervening years. Emma had gone back to Italy at some point and married Frank there. She returned to the US and found herself in New York, which she liked (there were many more Italians there than in Tacoma!) and decided to stay. Frank soon joined her, and not too much later, Tom moved out to go to Queen's College. Not long after that, Tony and his wife moved out to New York. Each of them lived with Emma and Frank in their small home in Corona (a neighborhood of Queens) for some time, with Tom sleeping on a cot in the dining room. There was even an amusing storing of Frank getting caught in the cot one night (it was one that folded up in the middle).

Tom also was able to tell me exactly where Cantalupo (the home-town of of the Martellis) is located. It is in the region of Italy called Molise and in the province of Isernia (the other provice of Molise is Campobasso). Today, Cantalupo is a country getaway spot for the urban dwellers of nearby Naples, some 150 km to the southwest. Cantalupo (the supposed origin the sweet melon "cantaloupe") means "wolf song" or "song of the wolf" in Italian. The full name of the town is Cantalupo nel Sannio and you'll see here that the population today is just 736 people. Check out this page for more information . And check out this page for the 10 most common surnames of the town--Di Re and Crivellone appear on the list (two prominent names in our family). If you search for "Martelli" at the bottom of that page, it turns up a result of 4.98, which means that 5 people in town probably have the surname Martelli. Perhaps the Martelli family does still have a few hearty souls there!

Needless to say, I was fascinated by the visit, and so grateful for a chance to glimpse our family roots. There were so many questions I wished that I'd asked my great-grandparents when they were alive, and this visit brought me closer to some answers. To Tom and Connie, Emma and Frank, and of course, the last surviving Martelli of his generation, Uncle Tony I offer grazie mille!