The Lovers of Valadro

Thoughts from Dr. Joe They died young, probably during late adolescence. However by the looks of it, they were in love. Two 6,000-year-old prehistoric skeletons from the Neolithic period were found locked in an eternal embrace in Valdaro, near Verona, Italy, hidden from the eyes of humanity. It could be the oldest love story. Verona is where Shakespeare set the star-crossed lover’s tale "Romeo and Juliet." Incidentally Verona is the same area where Giuseppe Verdi set the opera Rigoletto, the story of doomed lovers. Archeologists believe the find has more emotional than scientific value. The lovers were adolescents of the Neolithic age, a formative period in the evolutionary development of society. It was during the Neolithic era when religious, societal and emotional sentiments were formed, particularly relative to family and village. Thus scientists and anthropological experts assert that the lovers’ embrace with arms and legs leave little doubt that their final connection was born out of deep sentiment. The remarkable story of the Lovers of Valdaro aligns with the aurora of love. Although we compose music, write love songs, prose and love stories we hardly scratch the surface attempting to intellectualize love’s phenomenology. Subsequently we encapsulate its mystery Read more

Channeling Father Flynn

Thoughts from Dr. Joe I first came face to face with Father Flynn in 1957; I was in the 5th grade. I had to answer for the D’s Sister Mary Judith gave me in behavior. Father told me I would hang from the flagpole at Saint Frances of Rome if I were to continue such antics. For the rest of that fall, I was his indentured servant. My servitude continued well after the fifth grade. I became his eyes and ears in the neighborhood, his muscle, and prosecuted his will in a tough Italian/Irish neighborhood in the Northeast Bronx. I was conscripted for life and couldn’t break the hold he had on me. Although Father Flynn has passed, I am linked to his memory. He was the reincarnation of Saint Ignatius Loyola and Genghis Khan. Saint Ignatius was a soldier before he found the Jesuits; Father served with the China Marines prior to ordination. It was rumored he became a priest to atone for the mayhem he cause growing up Hell’s Kitchen and what he did to the Japanese in the war. He was shrouded in mystery; that’s what made Read more

Thoughts from Dr. Joe

The La Canada Junior Women’s Club

I remember my wife Kaitzer returning from a meeting and saying that she had become a member of the Juniors.  I thought!  Did she join a softball team?  I assumed that the Juniors were either a softball or bowling team.  It’s a women’s club!  I was surprised to learn that the California Federation of Women’s Clubs (CFWC), organized in 1900 has over 500 general clubs with a membership of about 40,000.  The Junior membership of the (CFWC) began in Redlands, in 1913.  Today the Juniors have 2,000 members with approximately 140 service clubs state wide.  The La Canada chapter is an integral part of that consortium.

I have since learned that “Strength United is Stronger”.  The Juniors’ motto is more than a cliché!  It’s a calling to serve others.  Collective efforts do enhance an organization’s ability to affect change; because we are all a significant part of a communal vortex of life.  Aristotle implied more than two thousand years ago that, “Humanity’s social nature is acutely defined prompting us to contribute to the greater good.”   Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “Our greatness as a people is an aspect of our collective character manifesting itself through good works.”  Yes…by helping others the Juniors enhance life in the community.  You set out to save the world, and by doing so, you save yourself.

The La Canada Junior Women’s Club with over 80 members is rich in the tradition of service.  They pledge to…“Live each day trying to accomplish something and not merely exist.”  This is not mere rhetoric or self-reporting platitudes.  The altruism of the members is deeply imbedded in service to the community and making a difference.    Their uniqueness lies in the diversity of services as their philanthropy represents the passions, and will of its members.    The Juniors purchase pines for the forest; they care for a bear, Ms. Montana, at the Way Station; they promote literacy; they support libraries; they provide trauma bears for frightened children; they sponsor an orphanage; and work with local nursing homes and hospitals.  These are a few of the projects that their members initiate and champion.   It’s an investment…in the future…and the greater society will collect the dividends.  Are we not part of the problem, if were not part of the solution?

Service makes us better people; it gives a perspective to life; it helps us teach the next generation the value of giving.  A child, watching their parents give to others is a great teacher of values and character.  Emerson said, “What you do speaks so loudly, I can’t hear a word you are saying.”

Often, we sit idly by and let others carry the torch to make a better community.  John Kennedy said, “God’s work must truly be our own.”  We can talk a great deal of what we would do if we were ‘king of the world.’  But…if we don’t do it, it ‘ain’t gonna’ get done.  The poetic lyrics of Simon and Garfunkle remind us:  “Don’t talk of love, I’ve heard these words before; they’re sleeping in my memory.”

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Plane Rides

“If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep; though poppies grow in Flanders’s Field”.

Memorial Day has past, and I fear that while our soldiers bleed, America goes to the mall.  My thoughts are after the fact, and purposely so.   Remembering is not confined to a single day.

This story is taken from the first entries of my journal titled, “1970”.  Life is defined in story and as I peruse the scribble of my first page I am hauntingly reminded that this maddening verse continues.  “Soldiers leave; some return, and some never do”. 

Here’s my story.

She was dressed in the traditional habit, a simple blue veil lined with white linen that hid locks of long gray hair.  My only memory of her was the way her eyes spoke to those of us who boarded the 707 that sat lonely on a dark, stark runway.  As each Marine crossed the tarmac she handed a handmade rosary and whispered “God bless you and bring you home safely”!

I was commanding the contingent of Marines going over; and was the last to board.  As our eyes met I knew, that she knew, that I knew that God would not return all to safety.  “God speed Lieutenant” and as she handed me the rosary, she began to cry.  That was the first time that I knew fear.

The 707 was set to go, and so we did, high spirited for the ultimate adventure that lay ahead.  We were going over…over there…across the wide Pacific…to a place called Viet Nam.  We were freeing countries and were filled with a sense of purpose that gives credence to the old adage, “War is only for young men”!

A seat was saved for me, between two First Sergeants returning for a third tour.  Anticipating a long flight I opened a brand new journal and thoughtfully crafted its title, “1970”, and recorded my first thought.  It was an aberration of the 23rd Psalm recited to bolster a false sense of vibrato or to rationalize fear.  “January 10, 1970; …though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me…and I am the meanest mother in the valley.”

As we reached altitude a chorus of song broke out, “Over there, over there, send the word to beware over there, that the Yanks are coming…”  Not everyone sang and I assumed that those who did not were veterans and had been there before.   

The laughter, the card games, and the speculation of what to expect ran rampant and took us all the way to Hawaii. Those who didn’t speak sat silent, collected in their thoughts, my fear was that they already knew and were trying to cover up what waited.  Their silence boarded on the macabre; “Why do they hide their fears and keep us from the things that we most ought to know”?  It was unsettling…the realization of going to war would soon surface and this time it wouldn’t be a John Wayne movie.

We arrived in Hawaii at 4 AM for a tank of gas.  The plane slept and being an officer I de-plane so as to call Farther Leo, my mentor at the University of Dayton.  “Pray for peace Father”!  I wasn’t asking for survival, instead, that I would do my duty.

After breakfast we left for our destiny, spirits continued to run high, and the men sang, “Over the seas, let’s go men, we’re shoving right off, again.  Nobody knows where or when, we’ll ever return again…

I wrote, “When would the realization of war hit these guys”?  As we entered Viet-nam air space, it finally did.  The pilot announced, “We are taking evasive action to avoid enemy rockets”.  All stretched for the windows, the countryside was as black as the night sky and dotted by periodic distant red flashes.  Silence consumed our 707 and as we landed I took a deep breath and said, “Sergeant, prepare the men”!  We all looked to the Veterans, the ones who never spoke; they would be our salvation and we theirs.

I was last to leave the plane and lingered with the stewardesses; we had become friendly on the long flight over.  I remember the tears in their eyes as they spoke of their anguish, for many of the boys they brought over, they would not bring back.

I’ll be seeing you”, I said.  Saying nothing, they watched me go.  I stepped off the plane and went to war.

As our soldiers ship off to Iraq and Afghanistan, it is essential that we connect.  Although they are there and we are here, this maddening play goes on and on.  “Soldiers leave, some return and some never do.”

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