Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Brief Encounter 
With Renata Tebaldi 

Renata Tebaldi (1922-2004)

A Memoir

In 1955, as a boy of fourteen, I was privileged to hear Renata Tebaldi for the very first time on television. She appeared with Jussi Bjoerling in scenes from "La Boheme". I was so taken with the beauty of her voice and the sweet loveliness of her person that I actually fell in love for the very first time.

Shortly after that, during the period of her Met debut, Renata Tebaldi came to my then-hometown of Englewood, New Jersey to give a concert in the GYMNASIUM of Dwight Morrow High School. [John Harms, our local impresario, had a positive genius for persuading virtually all the top artists of the day to perform in our suburban community under less-than-ideal conditions. Our close proximity to New York City may have had something to do with it, I'll never be sure, but I remain grateful to Mr. Harms to this day.]

The young Tebaldi, pleasingly plump in those days, wore a simple black and white strapless gown, little make-up, and no jewelry. The gymnasium was absolutely packed. Its a wonder the fire department didn't put a stop to the event. At any rate, the unprepossessing, overcrowded space was soon filled with Tebaldi's radiant presence, and all else faded away, except the sound of her voice, her beautiful face, and the warmth of her gracious personality.

When it was over –– after a generous series of encores –– I had a compelling urge to visit her in the hastily-improvised greenroom in hopes getting her autograph. Practically everyone else in the audience felt the same way.

It was certainly worth fighting the jostling crowds to get there, for what I received from this beautiful lady was not only an autograph –– but a spontaneous KISS on the cheek. She might have been one of my Italian cousins (of which I have many) so natural was her gesture. She must have sensed the innocence and completeness of my adolescent devotion and responded to it in kind.

I left there walking on air, of course, and it was days before I returned to earth. Needless to say, I have never fallen OUT of love with the gracious and beautiful Renata Tebaldi.

It was many days before I could bring myself to wash my face after that encounter, and fifty-eight years later, I still keep the tie I wore that night folded away in my top bureau drawer. In a life of rich and wonderful experience it remains my greatest treasure.

~ FreeThinke

Renata Tebaldi and Jussi Bjoerling in 1956

Sunday, August 31, 2014


________ PRIMARY SOURCES ________

Look well upon the men who dig in mines,
And work machines in mills and factories grim.
Be aware that those who tend the vines 
Or till the soil give much for wages slim.
Reaping sowing, weeding, hoeing make
Full the nation’s store of nutriment.
Overland the burly truckers take
Rich provisions and accoutrement
Coast to coast. The teamsters load and haul
Enormous hordes of stuff that we’ve empowered,
Shipped in freighters, stored in silos tall,
Delivered, well-displayed, and then devoured.
Awards are due the goods and who supplies them,
Yet the wise despise the guys who advertise them.

~ FreeThinke - The Sandpiper, Summer, 1996

______ TO THOSE WHO HELP ______

May God bless the practical women and men,
Who rise from the hay every day, and then 
Produce what we need 
Without rancor or greed, 
Make things run, 
Get things done, 
Keep things clean, 
So they're fit to be seen, 
And continuously smooth the way 
So that we may live comfortably every day.

~ FreeThinke - 10/20/11

 ________ STILLNESS ________

No sound beyond the dropping of the leaves
Or shushing in the treetops of the stirring
In the air and periodic whirring
Soft of wings and bundling of sheaves ––

Every now and then a bird may call
Looking for or longing for his mate;
Escaping still the hunter’s dinner plate.
Scythes swish steadily as grain grown tall

Submits to delicate compelling force.
Workers silently bent to their task
Over whom hot sunshine spills its rays

Reap swiftly knowing pain could come, of course.
Later, in the afterglow they’ll bask
Dreaming foolishly of better days.

~ FreeThinke  - 9/21/13 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Friday, August 29, 2014


Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the much older lady that she should bring her own grocery bags, because plastic bags are not good for the environment.  

The woman apologized to the cashier and explained, "We didn't have this Green Thing back in my earlier days."

The young clerk responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation didn't care enough to save our environment for future generations."

The older woman agreed, and then she said, ”Our generation didn't have “The Green Thing" in its day. She then went on to explain:

“Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn't have “The Green Thing" in our day.

“Grocery stores bagged our groceries in biodegradable brown paper bags that we reused for numerous purposes. Most memorable besides their holding household garbage brown paper bags were used as covers for our school books. This was to ensure that our sciobblings did not deface public property. [The books were provided by the school and paid for by the local taxpapyers.] Besides, these brown paper covers enabled us to personalize our books any way we liked. But,  wasn’t it too bad we didn't have”The Green Thing" back then?

We walked up stairs, because we didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store, and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we needed to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn't have “The Green Thing" in our day.

Back then we washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the disposable kind. We pinned our dried clothes on a line and dried them outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine, not in energy-gobbling machines. Wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. 

Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But, we didn't have “The Green Thing"  in our day.

Back then we had one TV in the house –– not one in every room. And the TV had a screen the size of a handkerchief –– remember that? –– not a screen the size of the state of Montana. 

In the kitchen we blended and stirred mostly by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us, although I do remember mother using her Sunbeam Mixmaster on rare occasions when she had some large scale baking to do for a church Bazaar, a wedding shower or the annual production of eight or ten different kinds of Christmas cookies she put in tins, gift-wrapped,  and gave to every member of the family and select friends. 

When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up newspapers to cushion it, not styrofoam peanuts or plastic bubble wrap. 

Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn either. We used a push mower. We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a gym to run on treadmills powered by electricity.

But, we didn't have “The Green Thing" back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we wanted a drink of water. 

We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying an endless succession of new pens, and we put new blades in a permanent razor instead of throwing away masses of whole razors when the blades get dull. 

But, we didn't have “The Green Thing" back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus to work or to go downtown to shop, and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of using their mothers as an on call taxi service in the family's van or SUV, which cost what a whole house used to cost before “The Green Thing" came into our lives. 

We generally had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites in outer space in order to locate the nearest ice cream parlor or hamburger joint.

Isn't it ironic how the current generation laments our carelessnes and wastefulness just because we didn't have “The Green Thing" when we were young?

Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a young know-it-all.

We don't particularly enjoy being old in the first place, so it doesn't take much to provoke us –– especially from an insolent tattooed punk with spiky, purple and orange-colored hair sporting a rivet in his tongue, who thinks he knows it all, but can't make change without the aid of an automated cash register.

~ A Gift from Mr. & Mrs. Netwitz, edited and embellished by FreeThinke

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Love it or Loathe it, it's Here to Stay