Who’d A Thunk It?

My best hour in Palermo was a conversation I had with an ambitious Malian man at the train station. Jeanette and LouLou went shopping, leaving me with our bags, while waiting alongside this fellow headed to Alcamo — the same town my grandfather, Nicolo came from, southeast of Castellammare where Anna, my grandmother was born. Both grandparents left Sicily in 1917 to pursue a preferable life in America. One hundred years later this Malian lad sought his dream upon their old stomping grounds. I asked where he learned to speak English, replying, “In my country at university.” He also studied economics, yet the possibility of attaining success in Sicily, even though his present career was manual labor didn’t much matter stating, “I must take small steps.” Hearing his story up close and personal, opposed to the images of masses I’ve seen immigrating on television, magazines, and newspapers felt like being deeply in touch with Europe’s new culture.

This man’s accent sounded rich, as was the ebony color of his skin, not NBA towering tall, although I still looked up into both eyes to communicate and was practically blinded by a broad grin. He might’ve been twenty or thirty, impossible to guess really, nevertheless t0o young for the scars scratched on his cheeks and forehead, pain inflicted through conflict, by man or beast.

Hindsight, utterly useless after the fact, isn’t it? Had the Consulate General of Italy in Los Angeles been truly informed, famiglia di Schiavo more than likely would’ve made other arrangements between November 9, 2017 and August 14, 2018; we’ll call her “stonato” (dim). Back in October during our application process, Stonato, on at least ten different occasions told us, “Upon arrival, you must get your visas stamped at the local police department where you’ll be staying.” She made it sound as simple as that, child’s play. We started what should have been a seemingly mindless exercise the day after arrival in Partinico at their police department. They sent us back to Palermo, of all places, the U.S. Consular Agency, who directed us to the Palermo Immigration Office, who led us back to the Partinico Police Department. Knowing precisely where that went days prior, tried again in Castellammare, starting with their police department, who suggested we pick up forms at the Post Office, whose agent more or less claimed that paperwork would be too complicated, “hire a patrona.” After a hellish week of that Sicilian wild goose chase, and the cost rising exponentially to execute our Elective Residence Visa, having already paid several hundred dollars before leaving in Los Angeles decided to move onto greener pastures.

Now came the actual challenge — try leaving Sicily on a moment’s notice to Rome or Milan, then onto New York or Los Angeles, depending on Airbnb availability in South Beach, Miami during Thanksgiving week or Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Turns out Jeanette, the miracle worker, booked our air to Carrizalillo and hotel for just under a million dollars. Who knew that hefty Delta credit would get eaten up so quickly.

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Caught With My Pants Down

LouLou’s tour at the iSchool in SoHo was as famiglia di Schiavo expected — significantly progressive, more so than any other high school we are aware of. Ten years ago, one of my New York patrons, an iSchool founding member, approached New York’s Board of Education with her unique proposal expressing time was ripe for alternative curriculum in the 21st century. The iSchool is not focused on memorization and standardized testing, students instead form pods, studying collaboratively through critical thinking.

After checking out of Sixty LES, we dropped in on Kossar’s for bagels with schmears, then Yonah Shimmel’s perfect potato knishes, afterward ubered onto JFK to catch our Milan bound Delta flight. An hour before departing the Delta gate agent began to announce our plane was overbooked, adding anyone willing to give up their seat could receive $500. Jeanette swiftly put our names on his list presuming together we’d receive a combined $1500 in Delta credit. To our shock, his offer grew much steeper the closer it came to our 6:25 pm departure — like six times higher. Delta’s compensation was any choice of several different credit types — we chose nine American Express gift cards.

Checked out of the JFK Hilton next morning — returned to terminal 4 — different gate — same departing time, took off without incident — followed by an overnight at Malpensa’s Sheraton. The next morning left dreary Milan for sunny Sicily. Palermo didn’t pan out as we planned I’ll opt the high road — “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Waiting until the wind stops howling is crucial before an actual landing, especially for global bedouins. Our nine month Sicilian life turned into a frenzied nine day mindf$$k.

To be continued….

A Requiem

Three summers ago, Jeanette received an email from a prospective patron who read my Yelp reviews, alongside website, expressing she wanted to schedule an appointment after her hair grew back in following chemotherapy and radiation. During the course of that six month waiting period we got to know each other before ever actually meeting in person. She was married, living in Southern California, singing and recording on her husband’s music projects; rock, their primary genre. Jeanette and I flipped seeing her that first appointment at San Francisco’s Hotel Kabuki; an exotic beauty, dripping in black leather, with one irresistible smile.

IMG_20171025_073332_642Our relationship went beyond a typical hour visit every so often; we stayed in touch through emails wherever our bedouin journeys led us. The topic surrounding spiritual well-being frequently came up, as did the utter importance of what food we choose to enter our bodies. Although bone cancer consumed her, the joy she showed toward LouLou, for instance, regarding LouLou’s handcrafted paper dolls threw us honestly — she’ll beat this, we hoped. Eventually I cut her husband’s hair as well, he too has an adorable charming manner with unique style pairing his wife.

Last year she wasn’t able to travel for Jehrcuts any longer, not even the thirty-seven miles from their Huntington Beach place to my Hyatt Regency LAX go-to suite. Jeanette scheduled V’s housecall, as I’ll presently reference her, V insisted upon ordering all of us an organic gluten-free lunch from their (husband P and V’s) favorite restaurant. V didn’t have much of an appetite, yet did struggle off the electronic hospital bed, to sit long enough in her wheelchair happily chatting and watching everyone else eat. She was that rare kind of person, truly content to give.

Six months ago, famiglia di Schiavo made another housecall for V; I prayed it wasn’t going to be our final visit with her. I leaned across V’s mechanical bed to embrace her, feeling gratitude, but a complete absence of any muscle tone whatsoever. P brought out an acoustic guitar; V joined his playing, singing a few bars they’d written, a tune teeming with pleasure from previous days.

From that initial appointment three years ago V requested short bangs; I persuaded her otherwise, explaining their precise maintenance would be nearly impossible for our intervals apart. There was no way on earth V was letting me leave that particular day without cutting those micro bangs she desperately wanted for so long.

V’s caregiver arrived just as I was finishing; the conversation turned serious as she, V, and P discussed what neighborhood pharmacies would be best to fill the bevy of narcotics making her agony tolerable. Pulling out of their driveway LouLou softly asked, “Is V going to die?” In the subsequent months V grew much weaker, emails became rather brief and spaced further apart. P’s pain in many respects was and remains far worse than V’s. He can’t walk into a pharmacy, leaving with pain meds for himself; ironically that’s partially his vocation, counseling children with addict parents.

Recently when we’d inquire about V, P replied telling us how difficult it was to watch his wife fade away, adding, “she doesn’t deserve this.” It never occurred to us V didn’t convey her well-wishes lately, consequently we did alter our prayers, from a “healing” to V’s “heavenly transition.”

On October 20, 2017 Jeanette read a notification on Facebook, those sent reminding followers how long we’ve been friends with one another. That Friday Jeanette’s reminder was connected to V; which naturally prompted Jeanette’s email reaching out to P. Thoroughly immersed in despair, our dear P had fallen silent until hearing from Jeanette that morning, responding to us writing V passed on September 7, 2017 — forty-two years old.

Unlike other days when her spirit still occupied her body, I now carry V’s essence within me and there she’ll continue twinkling, as others who may have similar experience, also fortunate to know her — especially P, his inner flame glows with the brightest intensity.

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Cool Hand Fluke

Our bedouin swan song before LouLou starts high school next year wasn’t gelling very well in Saphan Khwai, Carrizalillo nor South Beach. Seemingly out of nowhere I asked Jeanette to check Palermo of all places; within seconds Airbnb magically brought before our eyes an array of sweet and affordable apartments near the city center Ballarò market.1508549338802154589829.jpgAbout an hour or two later, Jeanette screamed, “Oh my God.”

By her frantic tone, I was positive someone we knew had met their tragic demise.

“What happened Jeanette?”

“Guess who’s hosting that apartment I emailed in Palermo?”

“Who?”

“You’re never gonna believe it!”

“Who?”

“Mario’s daughter, Alessandra; she immediately recognized our Airbnb avatar, saying she’d love for us to stay there!”

Summers ago before Facebook was commonplace, Mario and famiglia di Schiavo met in Castellammare del Golfo; we instantly became human magnets. He was taking some vacation time for himself, forty-five minutes from his family home in Carini, on the outskirts of Palermo. A week into Mario’s semi-private hideaway, Alessandra drove over to see him on her birthday; he prepared an exquisite lunch, I found the perfect gelato torte and accompanied candles, minutes thereafter, sang her buon compleanno — well the rest is as they say history.

Logistically it doesn’t make a great deal of sense for Jeanette and LouLou to accompany me every eight weeks traveling from Italy if not absolutely necessary. Therefore, this coming January I’ll be joining the big boys club, working like any other husband and father does, without spouse and child. The average work commute in the United States is about ninety minutes each day, thirty hours monthly, sixty over two months. I’m optimistic justifying these upcoming thirteen thousand mile roundtrips by telling myself it’s only thirty hours over two months, half the time most Americans experience in that same period — thanks to Malpensa’s Moxy Hotel, easyJet, Ryanair, Alitalia, Air France, Delta, Swissair, Southwest Airlines and Uber.

It’s official amici, I wanted you to be the first to know; our nine month Elective Residence Visas were given the stamp of approval by Rome’s consulate this past week. Between winding down this LA pop-up space, LouLou’s woodland fairy Halloween plans, and visiting patrons in San Francisco, alongside New York early November, I’m quite certain this blog won’t reappear again until sometime shortly after the clocks once again revert to standard time.

Anybody coming our way? — we know people.

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Cinque Notti

Last weekend Jeanette and LouLou overheard some Los Feliz backyard barbecue tittle-tattle, “Jehr’s just a hairstylist, he’s not an artist.” Others in the catty clique shared similar sentiment, “Jehr’s no performance artist, he’s merely a haircutter.”

Few sculpt while steeped in conversation; a Jehrcut is an interactive study in personal nature, christened through mutual consent. Placing patron, seat and Jehr Schiavo out of ordinary context, positioned instead onto a proper gallery floor, instantly settles the art or not matter. An ancient ritual then blossoms, becoming conceptual art, continuing in Yoko Ono’s footsteps.

A haircutting exhibition in such complementary manner is unprecedented, not only for Mr. Haute Coiffure, but for that yet revealed gutsy gallery as well; one who also thrives on an unorthodox limb Leo Castelli, Mary Boone and Larry Gagosian’s strategy. Refusing any financial payment whatsoever for gallery representation, under these particular circumstances, would be paramount. In lieu of commission, Jehr Schiavo would rather donate 100% from an art event’s earnings to a non-profit organization.

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Opening night — accompanied by pleasant pairing (money no object) the subject perches on a stationary Hermès Allegro saddle, alongside artist, both swathed in Suzhou silk, Golden Akhal Teke stallion peers over as cutting commences, gleaming Persian sword tool of choice — hail Caravaggio; calloused fingertips of Senegalese harpist helps fill this gallery space.

Night II — an abbreviated mariachi band’s string section wearing authentic regalia strums their vintage instruments; the enthusiastic subject sits upon a Mexican folk art side chair — hommage Frida Kahlo.

Midweek — world-acclaimed Icelandic cellist, Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir steers her beloved bow across four glorious strings; a stainless steel gurney supports this night’s trusting subject — shout-out Damien Hirst.

Fourth evening — a downtown jazz quartet wistfully pleads; the subject relaxes on an outdoor chartreuse chaise lounge — nod to David Hockney.

Final night — piped in from up above, Lou Reed delivers The Velvet Underground’s, “Loaded;” a clunky electric chair awaits — gotta throw Andy some love.

Whether polishing the hair’s minutest ends with precision Japanese cobalt shears or lopping off an entire ponytail in one fell swoop by garden hedge trimmers — going once, going twice….some art never gets old.

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Long on DIS

I was killing time waiting for Jeanette and LouLou at the corner of Hollywood and Sunset (two Los Angeles boulevards which will never intersect) in front of California Adventure’s Hyperion Theater. A bustling spot where every walk of life passes by in seconds flat. Female Japanese tourists posing for pictures, going-gaga-over costumed Daisy Duck, doesn’t necessarily faze me; it’s expected. Japanese ensembles appear as if catechism class were just before or immediately following Tinkerbell’s shuttle dropping or picking the girls up. Parents ignoring their little one’s irate meltdown is commonplace, for certain toddlers Disneyland isn’t “The Happiest Place on Earth.” Entire families rushed around me, bombarded from all directions really by those wearing Disney t-shirts identifying who’s who: Momma Mouse — Daddy Mouse — Aunt Mouse, yaddy, yaddy ya. If not a t-shirt, many guests feel the need to don furry Goofy top hats, Captain Jack Sparrow headdress, Chewbacca backpacks or any other form of Disney motif in 95° scorching heat. Visitors meander gnawing on whole turkey legs, others eat fifteen dollar popcorn sold in kitschy Disney personality containers. Every ticket sets back each full paying guest about a hundred bucks, approximately the price of one Disney share. The park last Saturday was one ginormous retail sardine can. Anaheim is muscled by Disneyland; Shanghai’s $5.5 billion Disney Resort opened in 2016; ol’ Walt’s dream became an unstoppable cash cow. Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas Haunted Mansion burned up two valuable hours standing in line. I lasted seventy minutes; Jeanette and LouLou, on the other hand, soldiered through an obnoxious drunk behind them, alongside repetitive eerie music blaring from overhead speakers, interspersed by Vincent Price’s ghoulish gab. I was taken aback by ZZ Top bearded biker guys, adorned with chains attached to their back pocket bulky black leather wallets, gothic font inked upon clenched hands holding metal dividing rails; a stark contrast to their lanyards festooned with Disney pin memorabilia. A stand-out hardcore outsider stood near me at the Hyperion Theater waiting for Frozen’s 3pm live performance. He epitomized an MSNBC Lockup Mexican Mafia figure who’d been hitting San Quentin’s iron pile — early-forties, shaved head, Pancho Villa moustache, white wife beater under a XXL white pressed t-shirt, grey Dickies shorts four sizes too big (new of course) white knee-high tube socks, spotless white Nike low tops, wrap-around mirrored shades (worn backwards) and jailhouse serpents tattooed on each arm. Sprinkled with pixie dust, only within Disneyland’s magical kingdom — “Love is an open door.”

Walt-Disney-Chart

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Untitled II

A few weeks off the blogging groove leaves an author such as I somewhat tongue-tied. There’s no shortage of current events to comment on, but who hasn’t heard enough already? Usually I’ll select at least one topic worth the effort to pen an essay about, however, I’m bent out of shape by our globe’s unsmiling affairs. Before now, I started writing early Monday morning; began last Friday afternoon, I’m already four days out of sync. No way this particular piece would’ve been ready last Sunday morning, my former posting date.

I don’t know, maybe it’s this crazy weather, just days ago most LA outdoor thermometers reached 105 suffocating degrees; practically overnight Autumn Equinox happened, what the heck? Enough crisp air filled the atmosphere we decided to reschedule LouLou’s fourteenth birthday celebration another five days until Anaheim hovers 90° again. Splash Mountain’s refreshing finale is always a welcome soak during Disneyland’s Indian summer midday heat.

On an ultra-personal note: the years are moving much too fast — one minute it was Easter, suddenly we’re planning a Thanksgiving menu. I can’t quite pin when life accelerated this rapidly. I guess there’s a chance it could slow down in years to come after drive met purpose and lengthy contemplation shall consume me. For the Warren Buffet and Donatella Versace types worldwide, reflective days may never arrive.

Which reminds me — this morning Jeanette and I were discussing life insurance policies and my inevitable lukewarm corpse. A casket deposited underground or within an austere mausoleum wall seems terribly wasteful. A Buddhist cremation I once felt acceptable, not any more. I’m giving all of me away in separate pieces. Not for Jeanette nor LouLou’s listening pleasure hearing my heart pulsate inside a stranger someday; it’s the satisfaction I’m having while alive knowing how much someone else may benefit by my closing curtain call.

There is, believe it or not, quite a lively cemetery not far from here — Hollywood Forever Cemetery hosts an annual Dia de los Muertos shindig; this 1899 burial site has more glitterati per square foot than any other place on earth. Many view this iconic Los Angeles destination as a museum of sorts. My cigar or pipe smoking, depending on the day, Uncle Tony offered frequent one liners, his easily rivaled Henny Youngman’s shtick. I haven’t driven past a cemetery without hearing Uncle Tony long ago jokingly say, “People are dying to get in there.”

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The Nth Degree

Whenever we attempt booking flights to Southeast Asia; it’s a muddle: should we fly Korean Air, indulged aboard their Tiffany coated planes — thirteen hours later laying over in Seoul at Incheon International Airport or another carrier?

If someone forty years ago spit on Mother Teresa’s face, then called her an illogical vulgar phrase, another person nearby might’ve intervened to rescue this 5 ft. woman of cloth. Eighty-five years ago, another disturbed individual could have possibly assaulted Mahatma Gandhi, punching him square-faced, knocking out this 5 ft. 5 in. Father of the Nation. Undoubtedly a crowd would’ve gathered to assist either prophet, meanwhile others showing concern may have chased and detained those perpetrators bringing them to justice. Both Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi would not have pressed charges, rather, quite the contrary, each would’ve chosen to display compassion toward their violent assailant. In a sense, most humans are not so forgiving. Attaining consciousness of the Dalai Lama and Jesus involves an infinite ability mastered through countless incarnations — tranquil Buddha no exception.

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Following Pearl Harbor’s bombing, the Oval Office had four ample years to ponder a decision: deliver fierce retribution or absolve Japan? There are on occasion isolated circumstances whereby maniacal leaders appear wickedly sinful, Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin another.

San Francisco’s rock chanteuse, Angel Corpus Christi, wrote and sang a memorable track on White Courtesy Phone entitled, “Big Black Cloud.” Three decades ago it was au courant; an ominous, though catchy tune concerning fate left in the hands of irrational power. Regrettably such a historic period seems just on the horizon. Wherever the rage of Kim Jong-un’s folly will be targeted, that country and its victims shall indeed receive aid, as throngs would’ve rushed to Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa’s side.

Most every country and their people, alongside the United States of America do not spend decades devoted to capturing nirvana through heightened spiritual awareness. Under severe circumstances (beyond the point of no return) to remain unscathed by an oppressor’s trigger happy finger unfortunately requires grave preemptive action. I’m far from clairvoyant, however, lately native wit is nudging me; swayed and crushed believing Angel’s “Big Black Cloud” will soon become global breaking news.

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