“Childhood, after all, is the first precious coin that poverty steals from a child.”
Horowitz, Anthony. The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel (p. 54). Little, Brown and Company.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY’S TO MY BELOVED DAUGHTER JESSICA, MY FABULOUS BROTHER IN LAW GEORGE DREAPER, NIKKI REFFO, AND NEAL FISHMAN.
CONGRATULATIONS TO TOM AND KATHLEEN ON THEIR UPCOMING WEDDING.
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
On May 18, we held my mom’s funeral at St. Ann’s Home in San Francisco. Although a sad occasion, I felt uplifted and a sense of closure due primarily to my sister and George’s efforts. They made the event a celebration of her life with a display of memorabilia, photographs, my mom’s artworks and with their eulogies — especially Maryann’s (see below).
I drove to SF the day before the funeral and spent the night at Peter and Barrie’s house. Because El Dorado Hills is such a silent place, I had an excess of words bundled up inside of me which, in an unbroken monolog of stories, observations, comments, and opinions that I spread across the floors of the house until I emptied myself. Then, exhausted and slightly embarrassed I trundled off to bed.
At the funeral the next day, I was pleasantly surprised by who showed up. Of course, my sister, her family, and a few of their friends were there including one of whom traveled all the way down from Mendocino. My son Jason and his family, Annmarie and the grandchildren were there also. Peter and Barrie attended along with Kathleen Foote (outside of family members, Kathleen and Ruth Galanter are the women I have known the longest), and Bob Uram, my partner at Shepard Mullen and one of the nation’s best environmental lawyers. In a welcome surprise, Don Neuwirth who I had not seen for over 20 years also dropped by.
The funeral brochure included a beautiful poem written by Ruth:
Teresa Petrillo departed this earth
Leaving grief and relief among those she gave birth.
To watch someone aging is hard while you do it;
In some ways as hard as yourself going through it.
So much as you’ll miss her, remember she’s free
And keep all her stories in your memory.
Teresa was tough, as her tough life required
To raise her three children. She should be admired!
And so as she passes from this life to next
Let’s think of her life in its broader context:
An immigrant child when few folks had phones,
She lived to see spying conducted by drones!
She had strong opinions, as all of you know,
And it’s likely that she chose the time she would go.
And so as she passes, remember her strength,
Tell others her story, but not at great length,
Be glad that you knew her because there’s no other
Relationship quite like a child with its mother.
Be sure as she’s watching from heaven above
That she sees you with pride and, above all, with love.
My mother as a young woman.
B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
After a brief reception at Annmarie’s, I returned to EDH. The next day, too exhausted to move much, I stayed in the house and rested.
The sun has begun its annual baking of the Golden Hills transforming them from spring green to summer gold. The skies, now and then dotted with cottony clouds, have turned deep blue.
Clouds over the health club pool.
My doctors seem to think I am doing well and continue to try to persuade me that my complaints of various pains and physical difficulties are simply signs that I am recovering. In fact, I do feel a bit better and have begun to eat and exercise more. In addition to swimming, my exercise consists primarily of seemingly endless walks around the lakes in City Center. To avoid collapsing and expiring from ennui in the middle of the path during those walks, I have taken to talking to and arguing with myself. This I suspect is a sign of terminal mental breakdown.
Along the walkways, wild grape vines have taken over the landscape like kudzu vines take over a forest. Depending on how I feel that day, I am either happy to be strolling between those lush green walls or terrified that the twisted tendrils reaching out will grab me and swallow me up. I think I am becoming delusional. Perhaps, I have been so for a while now.
Having had enough of the excitement of the golden hills, I set off to spend the Memorial Day weekend with my sister and George. I took a different route than usual. I traveled along Route 5 up the Central Valley and then along State Route 20 to Ft. Bragg. Although this route was slightly longer in miles and did not avail itself of as much freeway n my usual way, once past Sacramento I avoided the traffic slowdowns at the Yolo Causeway, Davis, Route 37, Petaluma and Santa Rosa cutting my actual driving time by two hours — even with stopping for a pleasant walk along the shores of Clear Lake.
Since arriving in Mendocino, I have gone for walks along the coast, eaten well, napped a lot, and talked at length with Mary and George. Some friends of their son Brendan arrived to scout out sites for a music video. I suggested a few likely places that I was aware of and thought might fit their needs and they trundled off to look at them. The next day they left leaving Mary, George, and I to face the weekend.
D. JERRY SMITH:
On May 7, 2017, Jerry Smith passed away. He had been my boss and a great friend. Jerry had been a California State Senator. He carried the California Coastal Act of 1976 to passage. I was his committee consultant responsible for shepherding the bill drafting and negotiating with the various interest involved. Together, we also passed a major revision of CEQA, Victims of Crime rights, and several other significant pieces of legislation.
Following eight years in the Senate, he was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the Appellate Court. Upon his retirement from the court, Jerry became a consultant to countries seeking to reform their judicial systems.
Later, he became a well-known local sculptor whose work appears in many public places in Santa Clara Valley. In the photograph below, Jerry stands near his bronze sculpture of St. Cardinal Bellarmine at Santa Clara University. I think of everything, he loved being an artist best.
A. Mary Anne on Top:
1. The Entrepreneurial Mindset and Women’s Empowerment.
My sister wrote an interesting article in a local Mendocino publication about entrepreneurship and women’s empowerment the first two paragraphs of which I especially liked.
CELEBRATING THE ENTREPRENEURIAL MINDSET
By Mary Anne Petrillo, Executive Director West Company
The youngest daughter of the first born son of a patriarchal New York Italian family generally does not stray far from home. But somehow a crack occurred in the continuum of the universe and at the age of 16, my father gave me his blessing to travel to California to visit my oldest brother. The year was 1974. What I and my family did not know at that time, was that my brother was bushwhacking his way up and down the California coast using his legal chops to save the coast from development. Shortly after my arrival he put me on a Greyhound bus and said go to Mendocino it’s like nothing you have ever seen, it will change your life. Arriving at midnight, it was not until morning light broke when I walked outside to see the Pacific Ocean in all its glory for the first time. The experience did change my life because I knew, as only one does when they feel a physical transformation that I would one day live here. Two years later I was in California. Thirty years later Mendocino became my home.
But the journey from then to now was more than just a location swap. When I arrived in California it was the 80’s and anybody with a little bit of knowledge, some office space, and a telephone could open up shop and start a business. I jumped in and joined the fray. Business was booming. There were no PC’s no internet and no social media. Cold calling was king. Big shoulder pads, a briefcase, and a business card was all the armor you needed. I ran my own business, hired staff, and fired staff, balanced checkbooks, and embraced the technology vortex as it radically transformed the work environment and dramatically transformed how we communicated. While I was trying to build my reputation as a woman entrepreneur little did I know there was another woman with a mission laying the groundwork for women empowerment in my future home.
2. My Sister Mary Anne’s Eulogy for our Mom:
She was the youngest daughter, born to the oldest son, of a patriarchal Sicilian family
By rights, her place in life should have been secured, as the youngest girl it should have been the life of a princess, but
By age 7, she was an orphan
By 10 she was an indentured servant living in a foreign country, gripped by hunger
By 15 she had found true love and began to believe there was a future
By 16, she lost this love to a tragic death (her next true love would not come for another 63 years)
At 19, she married a man who adored her but was plagued by his own demons and insecurities
Throughout her 20’s and 30’s, she struggled to raise her two sons while fighting off cancer, epilepsy, leukemia, anemia, colitis, ulcers and depression.
At 40, as her middle child lay in a hospital bed struggling to live after a severe car accident, she gave birth to her last child, a daughter
At 50 she learned to drive and received her first paycheck … as a waitress
At 70 she celebrated 50 years of an unhappy marriage
At 80 she found the community of St. Anne’s that brought her the peace of mind and heart she never knew
At 82 she met her second true love and at 84 she lost him
At 85 she picked up a paintbrush for the first time and astounded everyone with her capacity for creativity
At 90 as her mental state precariously rocked between a woman who was for so long was my best friend and cheerleader and a contrarian who sadly saw the glass … half empty
This was the life of Teresa Corsello known to everyone as Terry Petrillo and known to me as mom.
I was the recipient of all she learned of a life that brought endless challenges and also quiet joys. It falls upon me today to speak about my mother to many of you who knew her during only one phase of her life.
Throughout her long life, my mother was many things. She was an incredible cook who always seemed to produce endless amounts of comfort food no matter what time of day you dropped by unannounced. Once during college, I came to her house with a group of friends unexpected and within what seems like minutes there was 10 roasted chickens, 3 green vegetables and 2 yellow vegetables and spaghetti and meatballs followed by cheesecake!
She was what we today might call a fashionista. In her late 50’s she held a sales job at Niemen Marcus. They loved her and she was like a sponge absorbing the latest fashion trends. Her sense of style carried on well into her elder years as she always knew how to put together an outfit. Whether the clothes were bought at the thrift shop or Sak’s Fifth Avenue she intuitively understood color and style.
Long after her children were grown she became a creative force. Brief as this time was in her life she surprised us all with her capacity for creativity. Who knew! Learning first to be hula dancer and then picking up a paint brush at 85 to become an extraordinary painter. Had she lived I have no doubt she would have tried her hand at music and gone on tour with her grandson!
She was a grandmother of the first degree. Loving her grandchildren with abandon. There was no bowl of sugar cereal too big and no ice cream cone too large for her grandkids. As a child, I couldn’t always see the unconditional love my mother gave me but observing her with my children I witnessed a love so profound and so pure that now when I see how confidently my children walk through this world I know it is because of her unbridled love for them.
She, of course, was a mother and wore that role with pride. But she suffered from the Mother’s conundrum which is to raise your children to be fiercely independent so that they stand on their own but then keenly feel the loss of your children once they were gone. There are no recipes to be the perfect mom. And she had few role models to pull from so she relied on the belief that you can never love too much. And love her children she did.
And finally most of all she was a friend. If I close my eyes today and think back on what I witnessed most during my childhood it was the multitude of friends that walked through our tiny apartment. My mother was a confidant. She was the type of person you could tell your troubles to and she never criticized or diminished your need to tell your story. Today we live in an age where so many things vie for our attention. What made my mother unique and why she was such a good friend is because when she was with you she was with you 100% you always felt that you were the most important person there was and she was listening just to you.
She knew when, as a child, I had no friends so she became my best friend. She knew that I loved art but had no role models, so she took me to museums. She didn’t pretend to know art she just took me to the place where it existed. When I had no boyfriends like most teenage girls were supposed to have she never once stopped believing that I would one day find my true love and she knew he would be a good man. And when I made her wait an incredible 10 years before having grandchildren she never chided, guilted or pressured me. She believed in every single one of my choices and never held back in expressing that belief.
She fastened me with wings so that I never once believed there was a situation I could not rise above. The wings she gave me were made of steel, honed by the endless stories of her childhood, her fears, and her failures. Without the benefit of lofty analysis or intellectual pursuits, she took what life lessons she acquired as an immigrant with no family of her own and she spoke her stories to me in the hope that they would somehow protect and prepare me for life.
They have and they will forever more…..
B. Peter’s Comments on the Previous Issue of T&T:
I galumphed through two gigs yesterday: The first, with the old Beardos, was at the Lilienthal School’s annual Mayfair. Our respective children went there, and one year Barrie was in charge of entertainment for the Fair, which is held in the school yard (fun and fundraising). She said to me: “You’re playing at the Mayfair.” At that time I hadn’t been doing any of that for some time. I replied negatively. Then, of course, she and three other wives/mothers caballed and the four husbands/fathers became the Beardos; this after we actually played at the Fair where no one threw tomatoes and we discovered we had a good time. Followup: the Beardos stayed together and played for eight years; and, we have played at the Mayfair each year for 25 years; yesterday was the silver anniversary. We noticed that the children and most of the adults weren’t around when we first played what became our ‘greatest hits’. Time passes. My morning pain pill and the stool I now sit on to play got me through that one.
Later on, I went over to Emeryville to join the Blind Lemon Pledge folks to celebrate the release of James’s and BLP’s new album, Backwoods Glance. The event was at a place called Strings, a performance venue (an auditorium-like room, with living room feelings, created by an old hippy named Joey). Prior to a downed another pill. I’m now almost out and the doc needs to refill the prescription; he assumed one a day would do; it doesn’t. Limping toward Bethlehem…..
I chose to have the hip surgery in late June because for May and June I have 22 gigs between the two bands. Not a matter of getting it up: rather more, one of getting up in the morning. Fortunately, the recurring necessity of what my grandmother (in a triumph of her pseudo-victorian pretensions) used to call “voiding” drives me to the loo. Down the primrose path to senility…..
Peter’s response to my statement that I am a wuss and complain too much about my infirmities:
Actually not. I noticed the other day that I’m kvetching a bit too much about my current ‘infirmity’; people notice my limp and that sets off the grumble. However, I do not blog. As to others, probably many men are caught in the stiff upper sphincter approach to maintaining their external manliness presentation and remain silent about their various imperfections. Another take on it: On TV, 5-6 pm is prime time for pharmaceutical ads during the news programs. Weird as this may seem, I recently counted 29 different drugs advertised during this one hourly period, such as Eliquis, Premarin, Repatha, Claritin, Flonase, Humira, Xeljanz, etc. Why grumble when you can scarf down an endless chain of pills and be part of Making America Great Again.
I also thank everyone who, in response to the previous issue of T&T, expressed their condolences upon learning of my mother’s passing.
“Whoever would make a name (i.e. glory) loses the name; he who increases not [his knowledge] decreases; whoever learns not [in Ab. R. N. xii.: “who does not serve the wise and learn”] is worthy of death; whoever exploits for his own use the crown (of Torah) perishes” (Avot. 1:13).
From the mid-1950’s. Me and my bud’s from Tuckahoe NY, Charles (“Charlie”) DeVito and Peter (“Sir Rince”) Cirrincione. I am the dork on the far left — Shades of “The Lords of Flatbush,”