Thursday, October 25, 2012

Making Toast I ask myself what stories I should try to preserve for my family--like jars of fruit in my grandmother's cellar stored on a forgotten wooden rack that might one day be opened--or maybe not. Years ago I was part of a week long large summer session at Green Acre that was fast gaining a reputation for being too sciency. It really was well deserved criticism. I was one of the organizers and I know a lot of it was over my head. My mind begins to get a little wacky when I get hyper or frustrated so when talent show night came around toward the end of the week I had this strange inspiration to just embrace my frustration with all the science talks. About an hour before the show I hurried back to the house and gathered our toaster, bread, peanut butter, jam, butter, little paper plates--in short every thing needed to make toast. When it was my turn, I went to the front of the crowded hall with my most serious face and proceeded in my best Mr.Wizard voice to demonstrate how to make toast. The audience was divided into four groups. The children sitting in the front were totally fascinated and thought they were back in a first grade home ec. class and they better pay attention. There were the older people (some might say too old) who were shocked and astonished. They had been to many a Green Acre program and talent show but had never seen anyone make toast before. The third group were laughing with tears in their eyes especially when I demonstrated the unwisdom of using a fork to spread jam on toast--one should always use a knife (the kids nodded) The older crowd shook their heads sadly looking for someone of authority who could get me the help I so desperately needed. The kids eagerly volunteered to take samples of toast around on little paper plates and I'm proud to say I never cracked a smile even when an elderly lady held a little square of toast and wasn't quite sure what to do with it. The fourth group was my shocked and appalled family--especially my daughters who were totally embarrassed that their strange father could think this was funny. It's Thursday morning--shopping day with Laurel, Samaya, and Violet. Maybe I'll pick up some bread, jam and peanut butter give the kids a science lesson.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Thursday is my favorite day. I have nothing against the other 6 days, but Thursday I go shopping with my daughter, Laurel,Samaya and Violet. The most mundane of activities,but the day fills me with joy.Laurel and I can hold a conversation and for a moment I am her father and she is my daughter again. We go the new Trader Joes in Newington which is the oddest of stores--everything is exotic. They don't sell just chicken. Their chickens have all gone to High School or at least have their GED. They have a sticker lady who gives the kids stickers. The take the groceries out of your cart and double bag them all the while smiling like they work in paradise. Violet is very affectionate and the life of the party, but Samaya is more reserved. She rides in my cart because she loves the little coffee cups I give her (Laurel sighs but lets me do it). We share the cup--I sip and she dips her finger in constantly. I tell her if you are under four, Trader Joes gives you a free cup of coffee. We stroll around the store talking with everyone--well I talk and make up tall tales. I feel like Jimmy Stewart in "Harvey"when he walks around town in a state of euphoric delusion making friends with every step. We went home and I took the kids down to the Green Acre park where they love to swing.Later on they came for dinner with Sisay. Karen played piano, I sat in my recliner and continued planning the puppet show with Laurel for the children's school this Sunday. It was a stunning late fall day with the beauty of the leaves and the sky falling down on our wandering heads. I brushed a cloud off my shoulder--a light, airy Thursday cloud.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Miss Danbury

The third floor of our house in Beacon, N.Y. was the attic. Like the rest of the house and three other nearby houses it was primarily built by my grandfather. This was before the advent of building codes. My memory(not always trustworthy)says that he built the house from the remnants of an old train station which would explain why the lamp in my bedroom flashed intermittent red lights and made a ringing bell sound every now and then. The attic was a mysterious and dangerous place because who knew what was stored up there?. It was dangerous because they must have run out of lumber because their were gaps in the floor boards. One time during one of our exploring adventures my brother's leg went through the kitchen ceiling. We got blamed by my mother--misplaced blame we thought. How about the grandpa we never knew? But "Pa" was without flaw in my mother's eyes. She had a look in her eye when she talked about him that every father would would hope for. After all he and my grandmother brought up eight children during the great depression. So what if he had to build houses out of old lumber and my grandmother made bath tub whiskey(that pa drank a little too much of) during prohibition and sold it to the neighborhood bars. There wasn't much time for much of anything except surviving which made our discovery of an old beat up trophy with the inscription "Miss Danbury" engraved on the front all the more surprising. We dusted it off and brought it down to show our mother. We were puzzled to say the least. There had to be a good story behind it. My mother, in a matter of fact voice said, "Oh that. I was Miss Danbury,Ct. when I was seventeen." With all the tact of young boys we laughed until she got annoyed. She brought out a picture of a gorgeous young lady with rosy cheeks in a blue dress holding a trophy-this trophy that we now held. You would think that she would have mentioned this. We only saw a rather large woman who wore either a white uniform or one of a couple of voluminous house dresses. We didn't know this beautiful young lady. Now I think how wonderful that she did have a moment that wasn't all about survival--about having enough to eat and a place to sleep. May we all have such a moment--in fact many moments of profound beauty. Imagine answering a knock on your door and someone hands you a silver trophy testifying that you have brought beauty into the world. A beauty that will never become covered in dust or tarnished by time-imagine.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Passed the Daughter Test

I never know if the rare poem hat enters is my life will be a life long friend or an insufferable bore that should be shown the door asap with with my parting words of "Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out" chasing the verse down the street. This one passed the critical daughter test. A Summer Afternoon The feel of mountain grass beneath our backs Our bodies curving with the orbit of the earth The sight of the timeless God Disguised in cloud rainments Billowing arms outstretched The aroma of the eternal sun fills our lungs As it slowly climbs over towering green cliffs We look at each other-trembling "How long can you hold your breath?" I ask "How long can you hold me?" she answers

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Portsmouth Community Radio

Dear Friends, This coming week is pledge week on Portsmouth Community Radio 106.1fm. We believe our show, "Don't Dis My Ability" is unique and valuable because it gives a voice to individuals with a wide range of disabilities. It is not only a lone voice on the radio but often a lonely voice that aches for someone to hear and understand. Please call and make a pledge 603-430-9822. With the advent of the internet there is no such thing anymore as a local radio show. My agency has put our own page on their down to "Don't Dis My Ability" and you can listen to past shows with just a click.Much love to all my friends.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

just another memory

For a guy with plans for the future-stories to write--grand children to play with I still get captured by distant memories that I have to pinch to see if they really happened. But first I have to tell you what Samaya said today. She went with me to the bank, post office and Dunkin Donuts where I bought her a multi grain bagel with cream cheese. Her face had cream cheese streaks and her cheeks were bulging--unbelievably adorable. I asked her how did she ever get such puffy cheeks and she informed me, "I was born with them grandpa". To have such grandchildren is to fall in love with life again when you think the flame is flickering dimmer by the moment.But I digress as usual. Last week Laurel was driving and we were going grocery shopping with the kids. We stopped at Dunkin's and my face lit up. They were raising funds for cf. You donate a dollar and they put your name on a sticker. The windows were filling up with stickers. My daughter groaned because she knew what I was going to do and she had to help. "Yes, I will gladly donate a dollar to this wonderful cause. "What name would you like us to write in for you?" Would you mind if I wrote it in myself?" "Not at all" Laurel is giving me a look like she would rather be anywhere in the universe but being a go between for me and the lady waiting on us. I received the sticker and like last year I wrote the name, "Nert Sorry". Who is Nert Sorry you might ask? Fifty years ago in study hall the substitute teacher was taking attendance. She would ask each kid to say their name which she dutifully wrote down on the attendance sheet. I, of course, said "Ronald Tomanio" but my friend Gary Groza said "Nert Sorry" when asked. I know this is juvenile, but I was filled with Buddha- like blissful joy . In the following days when roll call was taken the teacher would call out "Nert Sorry"--no answer. "Is Nert Sorry here?" It didn't matter if I had another frustrating day in advanced algebra or I was feeling alone on a desert island the size of a school desk. For that moment when that poor teacher scanned the room annoyed that once again Nert Sorry was playing hooky, I was in heaven burying my face in my arm crying tears of joy. Certainly, such a fine fellow, although sadly devoid of physical reality, deserves a sticker with his name on it plastered high up on the Dunkin Donut's window. We drive away--my daughter groaning, me shaking with laughter, Samaya's cheeks bulging with cream cheese. Who knew that youth could be recaptured again for the measly sum of one dollar.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bee bee guns and bows and arrows

Still thinking about our visit to my Aunt's house in New Milford the other weekend. She couldn't talk fast enough jumping from one old story to another like a kid running across a stream briefly touching down on expose rocks. "Remember when your Uncle Harold broke your brother Richie's bee bee gun in half when he shot the bird?" "You mean the same uncle who gave us dangerous weapons for birthdays and Xmas like real bows and arrows just like Rambo used to wipe out Vietnam?"
I told her I remembered that story and Uncle Harold should have given Richie a medal--of course I was trying to get her riled up. "Uncle Harold shot a thousand birds". "Yes, but he always ate what he shot." I was thinking about the moral implications of that statement and how it could doom Quakerism, but decided it would be more fun just to cause trouble. It was summertime when kids released on parole from school try to destroy the natural world. We had a shiny brand new bee bee gun aching to spew destruction, but what to use it on? My brother leaned out of my second floor bedroom on South Chestnut Street in Beacon, N.Y. scanning for a victim. Nothing in our backyard, but over the fence of lilac bushes in the Nelson's domain was a birdbath with one thirsty bird perched on the rim.It was an impossible 30 yard shot on a windy day. "I need to adjust for the wind and being up so high" He pulled the trigger and and down went the bird face down in the birdbath. We knew we were in trouble because we had already put some bee bee holes in the Nelson's garage window and had to apologize and replace them. No fun getting picked up by the ears and dragged over to the Nelson's house by my mother. We had to make another apology to the kindly old Nelsons. Mrs.Nelson returned to singing while she pinned her dripping laundry suspended over the brilliant green grass oasis of their tiny kingdom. Mr. Nelson went back to listening to Red Barber narrate Yankee games on Sunday afternoons. My brother and I went back to playing wiffle ball on our side of the lilac fence pretending to be Mickey Mantle imaging how Red would say our names. Eventually, Uncle Harold took back the bee bee gun and broke it in half and we stopped receiving lethal weapons for presents. So the world became safer, but less fun--at least for thirsty robins in the summertime. A few years later Vietnam came along and the world turned a deaf ear to Uncle Harold's maxim for world peace.

Friday, April 13, 2012

new poem

I have not written anything new in a while. This emerged very quickly from a story I'm working on.
The Juggler

The juggler tosses sunrises and sunsets in the air
Sometimes reaching out his hand at the last possible moment
The children clap and scream shouting "more"
A birthday cake makes an appearance
The weary children drift away
The juggler packs up his sunrises and sunsets in a battered trunk
He walks away waving at the birthday girl
"See you next year", he whispers
She has strawberry frosting on her cheek

Friday, April 6, 2012

wearing my uncle's sweater

You've heard of last man standing. Karen and I are going visit the last aunt standing in Connecticut this Sunday. She will be 89 and lives on a mountain in New Milford that is modestly called Second Hill(First Hill must really be some mountain) The house is large and sits on 10 acres. My late Uncle Harold would not like the fact that he has neighbors now. He loved the wilderness, camping, fishing,hunting, firing ranges. For a year and a half while my mother finished up Chiropractic college in Iowa my brother and I lived with them. They had no children and all the other aunts and uncles did, so they were the logical choice and they would have been the logical choice of my brother and I. We learned to swim, roam the woods, work on houses he would build in the summertime. We also learned that people ate three meals a day actually sitting at a table together. They were a couple of opposites my aunt and uncle. She read movie mags and the National Enquirer-he read the Great Books and listened to opera and classical music. She was a Catholic who did and still does go to church every Sunday. He never went to church until late in life when he had a near death experience on the operating table. Then he began reading the Bible and posting signs in his workshop basement reminding him not to swear.He was what is called a man's man and I looked up to him because he was the closest I would get to having a real father. He taught us how to play chess and encouraged riding on toboggans down huge hills at a hundred miles an hour. He would buy me cheeseburgers for breakfast when we went to work and he stopped for coffee. I probably was a disappointment in that I almost strangled myself learning how to fish, I wouldn't fire a gun. I did go hunting with him and fishing on Long Island Sound and generally liked being with him. He died of cancer some years ago at home on the big mountain taken care of by my aunt. Shocking to see this larger than life figure reduced to skin and bones physically and mentally. I inherited the sweater my aunt made him. Heavy soft wool with pictures of wildlife. I was way to big to ever wear it. Now I'm small enough physically and mentally to put it on and keep it on.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The origin of stories

I should be working on making my story, "The Imperfect Pilgrim" a lot better but I've been procrastinating. I dearly wish that procrastination was an attribute of God--that somewhere an obscure Tablet of Baha'u'llah ends with "God the Procrastinator". I know, not going to happen-get to work Ronnie. I promise myself I will work hard this day after I finish this blog.
I woke up thinking about the origin of my love of stories that has now been passed on to my daughter. My mother was not a writer, but she was a captivating story teller. She had a million stories-she conversed in stories. I confess that when she talked about her trip to the Soviet Union in the 1970's with a group of chiropractors I would groan and ask for mercy. "Mom! not that story again! She loved stories in the form of old black and white movies made when she was young. I came to understand that she was young again sitting in her easy chair glued to the TV remembering where she was in her own life. I watched the original "Dracula" movie with her and she recalled sitting in the theater when people left their seats and ran terror--stricken from the bloodthirsty Count.She stayed, drinking it all in(pun intended).She had a child's belief in the big screen-it was all real--she felt the emotions booed the villains--cheered the heroes while celebrating with a bowl of ice cream. One night, After watching the "Wizard of OZ" she was feeling bad about the passing of the troubled life and death of Judy Garland and wondered where she was buried. I didn't help her grief at all when I told her that a diner in Philadelphia had purchased her bankrupt body and was displaying her Lenin style in glass covered coffin in their foyer. She was horrified at the crass commercialism of this awful diner and said that she, for one, would never eat there. Of course, she was shocked at my bad taste humor which only made it more hysterically funny to me. So I sit here about ready to shift gears and get back to my own story writing. Thanks Mom, have another bowl of ice cream. As you told me when I was a child,"Ice cream is free in heaven".

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Edith Rose

I recently received some wonderful news that a publisher is going to put out in May an anthology of my stories. They are very enthusiastic and want more and more so I have been going through and trying to give them everything I have. The story they love the most is "Edith Rose". All of these stories are at least 15 years old and ER is no exception. ER entered the world of visible creation(forgive this transcendental verbiage)as a result of my friendship with the real ER. She was a foster child bouncing from one home to another growing up. She would tell me little scarring vignettes from time to time. One day I impulsively promised that I would write a fictional story based on her childhood. I remember saying that there were no Baha'i stories about what it was like growing up as a foster child. Later I thought, "Oh my God, now I actually have to do the writing!". The writer's brain that call my fingers home came to the rescue. I imagine a contentious conversation about the brain between my ears and the brain between my pinkie and thumb about making promises that someone else had to follow through on. The Baha'i Publishing Trust at one time was very high on the story, but wanted it to be longer. By the time I finished the editor I was working on left and there were budget issues and they lost interest. So now after all these years my promise will see the light of day which will then penetrate the dark night of Edith Rose. The real person this story went on to become my own personal heroine. Heroes and heroines, like all human beings, have flaws and sometimes the flaws make a timid mortal like myself believe that maybe I can overcome my fears. Maybe I can do more than write about heroes.The last time my brother made the trip from my old hometown in New York to Maine (which was a minor miracle) he was in terrible shape. He used the toilet and when I went in later I was shocked to see blood spatters all over the place.I cleaned up so the kids wouldn't see this. He sat later on the sofa and the real ER who had been a nurse when she was younger was rubbing his swollen oozing legs. My loner brother, whose closest friend was a chess computer, looked at her on her knees and told her, "You are my friend". Simple words, common everyday words, but in over fifty years I had never heard him call anyone a friend. I couldn't look at his legs, much less touch them. When he went back to N.Y. he continued to deteriorate. She and another Baha'i friend would help him bathe he was so weak. I don't know all the things she did for him. God the Writer knows. God the Kind and God the Merciful, and God the Blind who one day presents us with a tablet of our own moments when we were able to rise above the muck and mire of fear knows. He will strain to pick up the tablet designated for the real Edith Rose. Sweat will pour down His Face. Tears will pour down His Face that will fall down as rain on my brother's grave and heal his legs, his heart, his soul. And as he heals, I heal.I look forward to giving the first copy to my friend.