Bert DiGiglia Marcello

My last living grandparent is gone. My grandmother was an amazing woman. She was always giving to others and always wanting the best for her children and grandchildren, her sisters, nieces and nephews, and cousins. Always praying for us. Worrying about us on the road, in the rain, and just in life.

She was born in 1923 in Lake Charles, Louisiana as Leboria Bertha DiGiglia, but she’s always been known as Bert. Her parents were Sam DiGiglia and Mary Tempa. Sam was born in Sicily and moved to Louisiana where he met Mary, whose parents Nicola Tempa and Brigita Margiotta were also born in Sicily. Louisiana seemed to attract many Sicilian families who had ventured to America. Once they got there, they all stayed connected and would visit each others families. When my grandmother was a young child, the story goes that she was standing on a soapbox at the kitchen counter when another family came to visit. That family had three sons with them, all a fair bit older than my grandmother, but she said then, “I’m going to marry that boy.” Years later she did.

When my grandmother was about 18, her Aunt Sarah convinced her to take a trip up to Shreveport with her. While there, she just happened to sprain her ankle right outside a doctor’s office. Thanks to Aunt Sarah, that lovely doctor came to help and fixed up my grandmother’s ankle. When she asked how they could pay him back for helping her, the good doctor simply said, “Don’t worry about it. Some day, your husband can take care of the bill.” Not long after that they were married.

She married Dr. Luke M. Marcello on June 15, 1941. They were blissfully in love. They had five children, Leo, Ann, Mary Jane, Sam and Chris. When my grandmother was 48, she lost her husband and when she was 82, she lost her eldest son. She grieved for them as everyone who knew them did, but she lost a piece of herself when her husband and son died. She always had smiles and laughs and hugs for us, and hopefully she’s doing the same with them now.

I miss her terribly already and I hope to share her legacy with the next generation. Her death has made me want to return to this quest back to my Italian heritage. To hold onto a piece of her and the family that came before us. We’ll see where it takes me.

Here’s the link to her obituary.

Doc and Bert

True Love – Doc and Bert

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Filed under Family, Family History

Just embarrassing

Seriously sad.  I have neglected posting anything since March 19, 2010.  That’s pathetic. Though I don’t have any news on the citizenship front, so I could just be trying to avoid admitting that I’ve totally slacked off.

There might not be any news on the citizenship, however I have done plenty of cooking in the Italian arena.

Last Thanksgiving, I took my first try at making rice balls (aka arancini).  My entire life, I’ve sat in awe of my Uncle Sam’s rice balls at the dining room table.  So delicious. So perfect.  The smell of fried cheesy rice heaven filling the house.  My mom eventually learned to make them by studying her brother make them step by step.  And her first attempt was a small failure to those of us knowing what they should taste like (note: she has since had no problems and also makes delicious rice balls).  So of course, when I decided I would attempt them for a large group Thanksgiving extravaganza, I was more than a tad anxious.

*photo by Dara Weinberg

It may or may not be surprising that they were hands down delicious.  Though always much nicer to have someone else prepare. They are a bit labor intensive.  But look how pretty:

I’m gonna keep this recipe to family, but basically it’s a really cheesy rice mixture stuffed with a spicy meat mixture rolled in breadcrumbs and fried. Hard not to be delicious.

I’ll most likely make them again this year, since they were such a big hit last year.  Plus, I really love them. Though, I think I’ll try making a few vegetarian ones this year so that those few sad meatless folks can enjoy them too.

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San Giuseppe!

I’ve been slacking for a bit on the Italian updates.  But in honor of dear ole St. Joseph, I thought it only fitting that I hop back on the band wagon.  Nothing new in the arena of my Italian citizenship, but hopefully soon I’ll get into gear and find a loophole to move that along.

Two days ago, I celebrated my lack of Irish heritage with a little St. Patrick’s Day fun.  I will celebrate anything. Apparently, March 23 is National Puppy Day. Perhaps that means I should go get a puppy?? Hmmm, I wish.

Well, today is St. Joseph’s Day.  And in honor of my Sicilian heritage, I will celebrate!  The festivities aren’t quite as fun as St. Patrick’s day, but whatevs.  Tonight I will make sfinge.  (Recipe posted here last year.)  I have also been wanting to check out the Italian church in downtown LA.  They apparently have Mass in Italian every Sunday and I’ve never made it down there.  They have a huge St. Joseph’s Table every year and it lasts all weekend.  So, if my plan works out, I will wake up on Sunday morning and venture downtown for some Italian church and food.

And here’s a random Italian phrase to use this weekend… adding this to the pick-up line bank.

Il mio bicchiere si sente solo. Vorresti tenergli compagnia con il tuo?
• My drink is getting lonely. Would you like to join me with yours?

Use it well, my friends.  And Buon la Festa di San Giuseppe!

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Filed under Learn Italian, Mangiamo, Randomness about Italy

Huge Road Block.

In an effort to get on top of my application, I finally found the time to contact the people in the Vital Records office in New Orleans.  For your recollection, the death certs for both of my great-grandparents need to be amended.  The birth dates for both of them are incorrect on the Louisiana death cert. Months back, they sent me the form to amend a birth/death certificate, but it was the wrong form and I’ve just done nothing since.

Well, this morning I called up the lovely people in New Orleans.  The woman who helped me was also named Kathleen, so I was hoping for good things.  And while she extremely nice and really wanted to help me, she couldn’t do anything for me.  Since the death certificates are over 50 years old, they are stored in archives. And once a record goes to archives, the Department of Health Vital Records Division cannot do a thing.  I would have to contact the people in archives.

So I picked up the phone and called Louisiana State Archives.  They were not helpful. They weren’t even nice.  According to the unnamed woman (she wouldn’t even tell me her name!), once a document is in archives, it is officially an historical document and she cannot make changes. There is no loophole.  It is official… even if the data is wrong!

Here I am trying to correct their error.  I’m trying to fix their account of ‘history.’ She would have nothing of it. I tried explaining that the Italians are very picky about their facts. They need everything to match–names, dates, the whole lot. The unnamed woman says to me, ‘I see it all the time.  Documents don’t always match up. But it’s okay. You just gotta roll with it. Dates are quite commonly off by a couple of days or years.’ What?! That’s crazy talk.

So I said to her, ‘But if these dates are off, couldn’t it be seen as two different people?  I mean, how many people do you know name Jim Landry or Chris Billeaud or John Smith, for that matter? They could all be born in and around the same time and you’d be willing to mix up their identities because the documents are there and you’re just gonna roll with it.  How can you accept these inaccuracies when I want to help you fix them?’

She apologized for offering me no help and wished me luck on my journey to nowhere, as my problem cannot be fixed.

So, I now ask you,

Are you personal friends with anyone at the Italian Consulate? LA, Houston, New Orleans?? Do you have a friend who has a friend with a connection at the Italian Consulate?  I need a connection.  Preferably one that can convince the Italians to accept me and my flawed records.

In the mean time, I’m going to try and get an appointment with the Consulate General in Houston during my trip back in December. Last year, they were on holiday while I was in town and couldn’t meet with me.  Hopefully this year, they decide to leave for vacation a bit later.

Current mood: Frustrated. Disappointed. Meh.

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Filed under Dual Citizenship, Records Search

An offer you can’t refuse

Disclaimer:  This is pretty much an offer you can’t refuse.  If you think you want to say no, don’t read on. Seriously. Stop now before it’s too late.

Alright fine…

A year has passed since news came out about a town in Sicily offering property for 1 euro. That’s right, ONE EURO.  And the town council is still accepting applications.  Now do you see where I’m going here??

They are still accepting applications, people.  If that’s not an offer you can’t refuse, I don’t know what is.  Seriously, 1 euro.

Salemi is about 96km southwest of Palermo,the capital of Sicily.  And it’s about 70km west of Corleone.  Wine vineyards, easy access to the Mediterranean, wonderful Italians everywhere.

So, here’s the deal: a large part of Salemi was destroyed in an earthquake and has never been rebuilt.  The town council owns all the property and in an effort to invigorate the city, they are selling each house for one euro with the requirement being that you have to refurbish and restructure the house within three years. There’s a whole application process, and they are weeding through applications, but they have 3,700 pieces of property! Thirty-seven-hundred!  One of those could be us.

Needless to say, I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking into this.  And while it won’t end up being 1 euro in the end, it’s totally worth it.  Think of the bonding time we’d have while trying to rebuild a house. Think of the dinners we’ll cook together.  Think of vacations or simply living day to day in the Sicilian countryside.

This could be the chance of a lifetime.  All I’m saying is how can you say no to this? Seriously.  Think it over and let’s come up with a plan.  A year from now we could be in Salemi rebuilding an old house on a hillside.  It’s your very own Under the Tuscan Sun… but not in Tuscany. And there won’t be a Polish work crew.

This is where we could be.  Let it marinate.  It won’t take long for you to realize you have no choice. You cannot refuse this offer.

Now, all we have to do is find money to fix it up.

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Filed under Randomness about Italy, Travels

All in a day’s work…

I am seriously ridiculous. Somehow I managed to incorporate Italian into most of today. Details to follow… For now, here is the brief summary:

  1. Delicious coffee and cake at Italian bakery
  2. Looked into Italian language schools
  3. Thoroughly researched buying land in Sicily
  4. Came up with brilliant reality show idea allowing me to move to Italy
  5. Wished a couple of people Happy Birthday in Italian
  6. Found a few delicious recipes for classic Sicilian dishes
  7. And finally purchased The Godfather Restoration Set

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Filed under Italian Film, Learn Italian, Mangiamo, Randomness about Italy

Spellbound by Fellini

Ba ba ba ba-da… Ba ba ba ba-da…  This is the tune that has been in my head for the past week.  It’s “The Barber of Seville” by Gioachino Rossini.  As a child, this was made most memorable by Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd.  If you haven’t seen it, you must have been raised under a rock.  You should watch it now.

That Bugs seriously gets me every time.

Well, I just recently watch Fellini’s 8 ½ for the first time.  I know, I know, where have I been?  La Dolce Vita, which Fellini made three years prior to 8 ½, is on the list of my top five favorite films.  I love, love, love La Dolce Vita.  I’ve just always been so enamored with La Dolce Vita, that I never got around to seeing 8 ½. And now… 8 ½ is vying for a spot on the list. Seriously, amazing. 

Anyways, 8 ½ … on the very basic level, is about a director trying to make a movie.  He’s flooded with producers, actors, writers and women stifling his creativity.  Guido (Marcello Mastroianni) is experiencing a creative block that keeps bringing him in and out of reality, back and forth between flashbacks and the present.  It’s smart and funny and the whole time it’s making me realize I need to get off my arse and do something.

It’s been exactly three months since I’ve written anything here.  No new developments.  I don’t have Italian citizenship yet. I’m still not fluent in Italian.  And no planned trips abroad.

There’s a flashback scene in 8 ½ when Guido was a small child.  Just before bed his brother and him whisper the words, ‘Asa Nisi Masa.’  They say it’s a spell meant to bring the pictures to life after dark.  It’s sort of like Pig Latin or Gibberish.  Little Italian kids would take words, separate by syllables and add the letters ‘sa,’ ‘si’ and ‘sa’ after alternating syllables.  Thus breaking down the spell, it comes down to ‘anima’ which literally means spirit or life force and has references to the female spirit.

Just as Guido in both his flashback and in the present is trying to bring pictures to life, I feel a sort of push to get moving. Nino Rota’s incorporation of the classic “Barber of Seville” into the score has infected me.  Ba ba ba ba-da… Ba ba ba ba-da… I seriously cannot stop.

I’m hoping this musical infection of sorts, this Fellini spell, will kick me into gear to make things happen.  Finish up the paperwork for the application, study Italian on a regular basis, watch more Italian films, experiment more with cooking and finally sit down and write.

This is my plan. We’ll see how it goes.

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Filed under About, Dual Citizenship, Italian Film