Photographs: some of my favorites

I found somewhere in my archives that at 16 I wanted to be a photojournalist. I was discovering the New York Times then and I was thinking action, adventure, and travel. That was good until I discovered in college, I really did not like flying, and until I discovered later in life, that I am a bit of a home body. Creature comforts trump adventure for me. So, as I am always telling my friend Myra, one must bloom where they are planted. Ironically, I am in the middle of a lot of vegetation and life with a gardener. So, here is a collection of some of the pictures, many of which have appeared here before.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

photo: Moby loves Macadew

Moby loves Macadew

Aunt Carmella Tress…not just an old lady in an apron

Aunt Carmella Tress, not just an old lady in an apron

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The toast is warm and my Aunt Melia invites me to sit down in the little breakfast nook she set up for us. It overlooks my  grandmother’s garden: roses, poppies, and plants along the viaduct.  We wait for the water that will fill the orange ceramic kettle.   Aunt Melia fusses over girly things like the fragrant orchid corsages she buys for Easter Sunday.  One day I went with my grandmother and Aunt Melia to the podiatrist.  Before the cab arrived, she nestled her hat into her hair with bobby pins and splashed sweet perfume on her wrists as she yelled down the apartment steps to my grandmother, “Coming Rose.”
A frail woman, sick from heart disease in her last years, placing the parsley strategically on the serving plate, she began to fade as my childhood waned. In 1971, when I was ten, Aunt Melia collapsed on her living room floor. Grandma surmised she came to a quick end as she reached to turn off the Late Night Show with Johnny Carson.

40 years later, I look at my Aunt Claire’s old newspaper clippings and photographs, and I see evidence of the artistic life Melia lived.

Aunt Melia or Carmella Tress (Teresi) was my paternal grandmother’s younger sister and our lives crossed paths for ten years. My aunt was born in 1895. Aunt Claire, her niece, filled me in on most of Carmella’s life and the ephemera makes it real. According to Aunt Claire, my grandmother, Rose, insisted Carmella get voice training. They were cousins of the famous soprano, Nina Morgana, Enrico Caruso’s student. Nina Morgana sang roles at the Metropolitan Opera where Carmella was invited to sing; her father, Anthony Teresi would not let her go.

Aunt Claire told me that Carmella went to Elmira College. There is a note on a newspaper photograph in the accompanying slide show that states Carmella Teresi studied with Mrs. Ray Herrick. The librarian at Elmira College, Mark Woodhouse, answered an inquiry about Carmella and said they had no records of her enrollment.  However,  Clara Herrick taught at Elmira College then.

The newspaper clipping entitled Local Singer in Florida includes  a note that says my Aunt possessed a coloratura soprano voice. There are other clippings about this, citing that 10,000 people attended this Easter Sunrise service in Miami.

In addition to being a songstress, I know Aunt Melia worked at Artistic Greetings in Elmira NY. At Artistic Greetings she hand painted cards. She lived above my Grandfather Castellino’s store and visited her brother, Joseph Tress, in Florida. I do not know if she worked at Artistic when the 1940 US Census (available on the Internet) listed her as a worker.

One of my last memories of Aunt Melia was driving along NY Route 54 between Hammondsport and Penn Yan, my mother was at the wheel and it was a warm, rain drenched day. The greenery was popping out against the backdrop  of monochromatic grey.

“Katherine,” said Aunt Melia to my mom, “this is one of the most beautiful places in the country, and it is right here.”

I thought Aunt Melia never made it beyond New York and Florida, however, there are pictures and postcards that show   Carmella took many trips including one  to California. Many were with my adopted Aunt, Margaret Riebel. In addition  I do know that Aunt Melia and Aunt Margaret were members of the Catholic Daughters of America, often gathering things to send abroad to missions.

Back in 1970s, children went to calling hours and funerals, even though we were ten and younger. My first meeting with death and the Catholic rituals around it, the solemn waking hours, the prayer before the corpse, and the last car ride to the cemetery.  One night soon after,  my four siblings and I gathered in my grandmother’s kitchen, and I thought, in my ten-year old brain, “Aunt Melia really didn’t die, she is just in the other room, and that is why Grandma called us in here.” My denial met with a small sum of money, “a little remembrance” said Grandma.


Revised: The Phoebe Snow ran through my Grandmother’s yard

lantern from the Phoebe Snow, circa 1960s

One day in the  fall of September 2005, I was talking to my parents about the trains.  It had been over twenty years since my grandmother had moved from her home on  Lake Street in Elmira.  My grandmother’s house abutted a viaduct and when I stayed there as child in the 1960s, the rumble of the train reverberated through the home.  The Erie Lackawanna Railroad ran above my grandparents’ front and back yard on its trips between New York City and Buffalo.

“Yep,” my Dad said, “on the other side of the viaduct was a train stop, in the middle of the night, on many nights, the Phoebe Snow, a popular passenger train, stopped and Grandma opened the store up for the passengers.”

In my mind’s eye, I saw my 4 foot 10 inch Grandma throw on her navy blue coat and walk out the side door with her unique gait, landing heavier on her right foot.  Down the red brick drive to the front of their building, turning the key to Grandpa’s store and the glass cases lined with Mallow Cups and cigarettes in their Lucky Strike and Winston-Salem wrappers.

I wondered how the passengers transversed the viaduct, apparently there existed a set of stairs that climbed up and down to the other side.  “What if they needed other things…things not at the store?”

“Oh, your grandmother, she’d help them out,” my Dad said.

I liked this story, it was comforting somehow, like the trains.  The trains which I still find calming, the repetitious rumble, powerful moving ahead while standing still.  I later asked my Aunt about Grandma opening up the store for people on the passenger train.

“Oh, yes,” she always did that.  “In fact, on the last night the Phoebe Snow went through, the conductor gave her this lamp:  ‘Here you go, something so you will never forget the Phoebe Snow.’ ”

My Aunt went into her garage and pulled out the lantern in the above picture.  “We saved it after the Flood of 1972 but I need to clean it up, maybe a project for this winter.” she said and walked it back into the garage.

My Dad passed away soon after that and my Aunt never got around to the lantern.  It is passed on for another  time when it may bring people together and light the way.

Link to YouTube video about the Phoebe Snow:

The Reading List for Life Part 1

When I was in eighth grade I had a fabulous English teacher. Her name was Ms. Dawson and I was an Honors Student, one of those in an advanced class.

She taught us so much within the confines of her classroom. We read and watched Death Be Not Proud, we were assigned a word of the day monthly and stood up in the front of class to present it…a good technique for teaching public speaking. She helped us connect poetry to images in the outer world and then published our works in a book I still have some forty years later.

Fast forward to eleventh grade where I was demoted to Regents class, the non-brilliant classification of the day. The brilliant students were on the other side of the wall in a class with, what I do believe was, a brilliant teacher named Barry Swan.  I only heard  pieces of his lectures, but I learned through stories that Barry Swan made students’  think.  For sure, he had passion.  You could hear it in his voice when it passed through the wall to the room I was sitting in that year.

My English teacher was out most of the year.  She had been a victim of polio and became head of the Teacher’s Union…I think the latter was her passion and I think the polio led to her  absences.  She was a nice woman, gave me As on all my papers, but I don’t think she read them.  One day, I actually wrote, if you are reading this please indicate it.  When the paper was returned there was no mark on that line.  I remember we were  to read Beowulf…I could not get past the first page and had no motivation to try it.


When I went to college, it dawned on me, and was elucidated by many of my friends, that I did not read enough and do the simultaneous thinking.  It was as if I stopped with junior year.  My college boyfriend sent me into the summer after our sophomore year with a reading list.  There were 10 books on that list, I bought all of them.  I read most of them…they began to change my life.  In retrospect, I think it was because the books covered such a wide range of topics and made me think of the uncertainty of certainty.

Here is the list of five of those books.  Sadly, I cannot remember the other five but as you can see what a combination.

  1. The New Testament
  2. The Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis
  3. The Roswell Incident
  4. Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton
  5. The Cosmos by Carl Sagan

For each book, I can summarize in about one sentence why it changed my thinking:

The New Testament is an integral part of the foundation of our society, like it or not!

The Screwtape Letters, written by the senior devil to the junior devil depict a truism:  as soon as you proclaim your humility you lose it.

The Roswell Incident made me wonder are they out there and could the government really cover them up if they are?

The Seven Storey Mountain confirmed for me that it is body, mind, and soul.

The Cosmos:  I admit I never could get through this tome, but I loved the pictures and I loved the concept billions and billions.  I later in life worked for the man who hired the author, that was pretty cool.

Whose Got Your Back

“it ain’t who you know but whose got your back” so sings Aloe Black

What a world we have created…speaking through our electronics more than we do Face-to-Face. Reading and watching the news of Syrian heart break right after the post about my dog’s happy meal. All of life’s mess mixed into one stream.

We are a trusting lot in this country…way too trusting. It is obvious from what some of us post on Facebook. I think it comes from the bubble we live in. The bubble of safety brought to us through CNN and the U.S. Military.

So in the muddled world of Facebook we must remember that liking a post doesn’t translate into love and trust. It is easy to forget that when we are so much with our electronic pals.

The kind of love and trust developed over face-to-face connection of real conversation and real trust. The kind of love developed through hard times and fun times and the kind of love that occurs when people dislike your choices, tell you why, and love you no matter what.

The kind of relationships with people who have your back as Aloe Black sings. Those rare gems who will stop you dead in your tracks, tell you what you don’t want to hear, and who, by grace you open your heart to.

We can all rationalize why our decisions are right. We can defer to those higher authorities, like my dentist who says I must have X-rays if I want my teeth cleaned. Those authorities who make it so simple to just say yes, or we can question, “really and this is based on?” What… possibly your need to pay off the X-ray machine.

And, in our questioning, speak to those people we trust, to sort out whose got our back and whose agenda is too much muddled into their advices.

There aren’t many in the camp of people who are for you…may we all have the wisdom to identify them and keep them close in this mixed up, crazy world.

And may we find a collective way to extend our humanity towards our pets to those refugees so in need of our help.
inspiration for this piece

The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis
People of the Lie by M Scott Peck
T.D. Jakes
Aloe Black

this quote by Shakespeare

To beguile the time,
Look like the time.
Bear welcome in your eye,
Your hand, your tongue. Look like th’ innocent flower,
But be the serpent under ’t. He that’s coming
Must be provided for; and you shall put
This night’s great business into my dispatch.image

goop for the rest of us 99 percent

Gwyneth, I know you mean well, but really, I just can’t afford most things promoted in goop.

Here are some headlines for goop for the rest of us!

BE: Self Preservation:  Can’t afford plastic surgery, try drinking water and applying lots of moisturizer: maybe it will catch on and some of those plastic surgery dollars (resources) will be diverted to causes that really need money, WIC, for example.

MAKE: Eat Organic:    try growing a few lettuce leaves in the back-yard or a herb garden on the window sill~start a world-wide reduction in carbon emissions…its a long way from the city to the organic farm.

goop for the rest of us

GO: Where to stay in New York City: Can’t afford $500 a night, maybe you better visit Jersey and take a bus over.

MAKE: From the kitchen, cooking with your man:  Scrumptious Blueberry Muffins: buy a mix; add frozen blueberries.

BE: Self Help:  How to Become More Resilient while doing more and making less after the tax man cometh.

GET Style:  Alternatives to the “R” Blouse in Blue for $225 found at your local thrift shop.

DO: Paris Foodies:  Not going anytime soon, Julia Child wrote some good books: check them out at the library.

Cheers from a goop subscriber who likes the inspiration but not the cost!


Blueberry Muffin made by husband

Blueberry Muffin made by husband

Blowin’ through the wind

written July 2014

Blowin’ through the wind

with wind
Blowin’ through the wind

along about May I started thinking about the wind, how great it feels sweeping over the arms and face during many months in the Northeast.

I also thought about how darn right evil it feels in mid February: searing through whatever puffy nylon armaments I might be wearing.

this summer, I’ve also been watching the wind, the way it moves the cattails this way and that way, apart and together, like a well choreographed dance.

one day, driving past an old friend’s cottage on Seneca Lake, I looked up at a tree swaying in the wind, bent in the late afternoon sunlight.

I thought about how the winds of time just keep blowing forward~
wondered if there was any way to go back 30 plus years to
the cottage near the creek…

to water ski slalom; to throw my head under the fast moving waters of Hector Falls on a Memorial Day; to eat Mom’s macaroni salad with the green olives and sour cream, Faye’s potatoes, and Cara’s green bean casserole?

to wonder if my Parents and their friends would ever stop playing the “What time precisely will the sunset?” game.

a few days later I learned one of the friends, a contemporary, lost his wife.

no going back, what was I thinking, whole lives have been lived since that time…
lives just blowing through the wind.


The land of What?

These days I’m always hearing What?

The other day, at the nursing home… my aunt and I waited patiently in her room for one of her appointments. I was tired and not saying much…every once in a while she’d asked me a question: “How is your pal Stefani?”

“Oh good,” I replied.

And then it started…”What, What? I can’t hear you.”
“She is good,” I replied, again.

A few minutes later, she asked the same question and we went through the same scenario.
Finally, I said, “maybe you should get a hearing aid?”

“What, at my age?” she is 91, “there is nothing wrong with my hearing.”

Last week, we went to dinner with my Mother…granted we were in a corner, near a speaker belting out Frank Sinatra, but I asked her to sit next to me to minimize the whats. She still couldn’t hear me…the what’s ensued. I’ve asked her about getting a hearing aid, she scoffs and says,  “What?”

This am, my husband said to me…”What time are we leaving?” I replied, “oh about 10.”
“What,” he asked. “What time are we leaving?”
“10”…I said again.  “When are you getting your hearing aid?”

“What, I don’t need a hearing aid!”

koi pond

koi pond

koi pond


A beginning waits
For someone to enter thru
This beautiful door!


Door at Elmira College


Born at the time of the pink petaled peonies…screaming into the world as the scent permeated the air…to be born amid the red poppies and bright white mock orange, it’s orange scented center a baptism into heaven’s creatures on earth. Its forest green leaves beckoning exploration into the mysterious woods of life.

Mad Men Epilogue

at  my brother Bill’s suggestion, this is the best I can do without my copywriters

Don Draper went back to advertising a new man and used his transformation to pull humanity together.He created the COKE commercial and went home to NY where he always wanted to live. Proceeds from his company support: Meditate your way to a better life.

Joan and Don later married and combined their families. “Uncle Roger” still visits when he is not in Paris or Montreal.

Betty had a miraculous recovery and continued her psychology studies, she was last seen getting into a limo to cohost the Dr. Phil show.

Mr. Frances went on to be governor of NY changing his name to Cuomo to win the Italian vote.

Megan Draper drifted off into the LA sunset and is scheduled to appear on an infomercial next Sunday selling frozen French meals like the dinner she often made for Don:poulet au vin.

Pete and his wife lived happily ever after in Kansas, later joined by their second child and Tammy’s sister, Dorothy.

Sally joined the peace corps after college graduation and started smiling: she followed in her mother’s footsteps and helped Glenn after his return from the war.

Bobby and Gene Drapper grew up, studied medicine, and became advertising executives. They now attend Burning Man every year.

Peggy and her husband lived happily ever after, until one day, in their 80s, they died.

Burt Copper comes back every Christmas time to remind us all that things do get better if only we believe.

The over 45 audience exits off stage, pours themselves a Manhattan for old times sake, and says, There goes an end of an era, twice.

copyright claireaperez

“Do Lunch” would be my Commencement Speech

here is how it would go:

Ladies and Gentleman and Graduates,

I am going to give you a simple piece of advice that I think can help you advance your careers and help you touch lives in this world in ways we can now, in our cell phone digitized world, only dream about:  DO LUNCH.

Let me begin with a euglogy I wrote to Lunch when I feared it was almost dead, back in 2011.

Dear Lunch:

I remember you. We first met over a bologna and cheese in the 60s. Occasionally the fish sticks would be added in to our party.

We had a lot of fun during my early work days. I’d meet you around noon and we sat around with colleagues and talked about all sorts of random things. The dreams we had the night before, the latest Seinfeld, and the hot actor on ER, George Clooney. Ah those were the days. Sure, the food wasn’t that great, cafeteria brocolli and ranch dressing, but the company made the whole day worth showing up for, no matter how bad.

For 10 years, we were thick as thieves, you and me Lunch. Thick as thieves.

Then things changed. Well actually, you were still available but in a different place. Our meeting place at my new work site was set up to accommodate 3 in an office of about 50. I ended up seeing you once in a while, those days when I could find a chair or sneak out to eat at the local bakery. Our relationship existed like this for four years, until I moved on to the next job.

Computers hit the work scene in full force and you and I started really drifting apart. I began working as an outreach educator and when I asked about lunch, my boss said, “Oh, lunch, we usually just sit at our desks, but you can take one half hour if you want.”

It wasn’t looking good for us lunch, I should have seen it coming. We managed though, we got together once in awhile. Sometimes, the  kitchen classroom was empty and we went in and heated up our macaroni and cheese and sat at the table with other people escaping their office cubes. Other days lunch, you and I would try and take a walk together. Now that was fun, remember how we talked about the good old days when we could actually hang out together.

We were going to try and make it work like it use to, do you remember Lunch?

But now, lunch, years later, our relationship is all but dead. I see you about 3 minutes a day while I’m walking from my classroom to my office or while I’m typing something on my computer. I miss your scent, your crunch, and I miss your companionship,

I miss bul shi ing about life. I could feel you lunch, touch you, exchange words and emotions with you, you felt more warm and fuzzy than my metal computer. No matter how we slice it lunch, it just isn’t the same. I want you in my life, I need to talk, I need to communicate and see what is happening in the world, what I’m missing by just linking posts on Facebook. I just don’t know when you will be coming back. But if you can find a way to ease yourself back into my life, by all means I will be happy to see you.

Lunch and I have reconnected a bit since I wrote this but our relationship needs to be strengthened.  So, with hope for the future, here is one important piece of advice:

I see before me young, beautiful, hopeful, energetic people and I fear you will be discouraged by the paradigms we have set before you.

Don’t be, do lunch.

photo...Labor Day Party

Lunch:  the concept

As many days of the week as you can, with as many people as you can. Turn off the electronics, bring sandwiches to the park, or bring grandma to the diner.

At work, sit in the staff room, even if you are alone sometimes, just sit, someone is bound to walk in. Don’t be clannish, practice an open heart. Sit and talk across language differences, job titles, ages, outfits. and income differentials because underneath you will find our common humanity.

At the end of lunch your heart will probably feel warmer as you approach the rest of your day, and you will have received more information about life than spending extra time with your ever present electronic compadre.

In communications, we know that the richest channel of communication is face-to-face. We know this and we need to practice it.

I have tried for hours finding data about a topic only to spend an hour with people who answered my questions in minutes. We think computers have sped us up, but perhaps, in some ways, they have slowed us down.

Accept now that you can not keep up with technology and that the race is futile. Technology is a tool to solve our problems but its popularity seems to have made it into the end product.

The world has many issues that beckon you, that need you. My advice is not to let lunch stay buried in the anthropology room, but to put LUNCH in bold on your calendars.


Revised from 2012


Previous Older Entries

It’s about the story………


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 355 other followers

%d bloggers like this: