“That’s Amore! Life With an Italian Father, Mother, and Uncles”

Somehow, somewhere, some unknown number of years ago, Joseph B. Olivieri, Sr. prefaced an unpublished manuscript with:

“This book is being written for my children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces who never knew their grandparents and their uncles.”

I am one of those nieces.  And I really should clean out my filing cabinet more often.

I received the unpublished manuscript for Life with an Italian Father, Mother, and Uncles from my step-mom, who mailed it to me shortly after my father passed away in 2003.  I gave the mss. a quick, cursory skim, stashed it away and promptly forgot about it until just recently.[1] I was looking for something else in my personal “archaeological dig” (aka: The Dreaded Filing Cabinet) when I noticed an oversized manila envelope wedged in the back.  Curious, I hauled it out, blew off the dust, opened it, and found myself instantly transported back some forty years or so to Michigan and the Olivieri home.

You see, Joseph Olivieri, Sr. was my uncle.  He married my Dad’s sister, Charlotte.  Their three kids are my cousins.  I only met Uncle Joe once, during my one and only visit to Michigan in the 1960s.[2] I was very young and don’t remember much.  What I do remember about my Uncle Joe:

1) He was as bald as a billiard ball

2) He wore glasses and seemed as tall as a giant (everyone looks like a giant when you’re six years old)

3) He was always smiling or laughing

4) The smells from the Olivieri kitchen were divine, and

5) there was something about… smoking a cigar.

If only I’d taken better notes!

Fortunately, Uncle Joe did.  What I found in that dusty manila envelope was nearly one hundred single-spaced, type-written pages of his unpublished memoirs.  The editor in me danced a jig.  A word about that is in order.

When working on an edit, I usually warm up the ‘ole red pen or pencil, roll up my sleeves and bleed red ink all over dangling participles, misplaced modifiers, incorrect usage and the like.   It may sound corny, but I just couldn’t do it this time.  The closest I got was adding “That’s Amore!” to the title, because it seemed appropriate and a good fit.  But there was something about holding my uncle’s manuscript that was like holding his hand.  I couldn’t bear to slash any more red ink anywhere.[3] It seemed sacrilegious.  So I refrained.  The editing and keyboarding process are “speeding” along like a gimpy snail on crutches mired in a molasses factory, but it seems the respectful thing to do.  It also means only minor edits and reformatting for publication by yours truly.

My Uncle Joe passed away several years ago.  My Aunt Charlotte continues to reside in Michigan.  Unfortunately, the manuscript is undated.  Although there is no way of pinpointing its date of origin, the paper and type font used suggest it was printed off a 1980s-vintage Macintosh computer.  Whatever the date or age of the manuscript, I’m working on wrapping up my Uncle Joe’s story, in his words.  Que bella!


[1] I am still kicking myself for not giving this manuscript more attention sooner.  But  as they say, “better late than never.”

[2] I’d give you an exact date if I could, but I can’t remember it.  Possibly 1967.

[3] In truth, Joe’s original manuscript is so well-written that the editorial attention required is minimal.

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“Walk the Line” is a Keeper

I’m not what you’d call a “country music fan.”  At least I wasn’t until last week, when I saw Walk the Line (20th Century Fox, 2005) with the fam.   Line is the true story of country music legends Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) and June Carter Cash (Reese Witherspoon).  It’s a remarkable film.

Phoenix turns in a brilliant performance of the complicated, multi-faceted ‘Man in Black’ who finally turns his life around with the help of June Carter.  In an extraordinary thespian tour de force, Phoenix captures Cash’s driving “freight train” voice with a steely intensity that should’ve earned him a Best Actor Oscar.  He  has Cash’s unique style, mannerisms, posture, gestures and facial expressions down so well, it’s like looking at Johnny in a mirror.  Witherspoon is equally as impressive as the sassy, spunky Carter.  Both do their own singing.

In an era of car crashes, computer-generated graphics, earsplitting soundtracks or cheap theatrical gimmicks to draw in audiences, character-driven movies of this quality are as rare as the Hope diamond.  Walk the Line walks the extra mile – several, in fact – and relies on rich, three-dimensional characterizations, superb storytelling, great performances and dramatic conflict – both external and internal – to ably round out this inspiring story of an American icon.   “I know that one!” tunes like Folsom Prison Blues, Jackson, I Got Stripes and Ring of Fire are peppered throughout.  So are “cameo appearances” by “Jerry Lee Lewis”, “Waylon Jennings”, “Roy Orbison”, and “Elvis”.

Why it took me five+ years to discover this gem, I don’t know.  But “better late than never.”  Even my teenagers enjoyed Walk the Line (high praise indeed).

Any way you run it, Walk is a keeper.  It may even convert you into a country music fan.  Just don’t ask for my copy of It Ain’t Me, Babe.  I ain’t sharin’.

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Up next: That’s Amore! and Seven Deadly Social Media Sins