My grandfather Louis was born in Italy. The southern part. Somewhere in the province of Caserta. Just outside of the city of Naples.

He was a bastred. Never knew either parent.

He grew up on the streets of Naples. He made do to survive.

He found work when he was 6 or 7 as a sheepherder in the fields outside of Naples. Eventually and by the age of 8 he became a head sheepherder. That meant he was the boss of a group of other small boys so working.

Louis decided to come to the United States when he was about 12. By whatever means, he got on a boat and ended up at Ellis Island.

Ellis Island was and still is located outside of New York City. It was the entry point for immigrants in those days.

All persons who were to enter the United States had “papers.” The papers contained their personal data and was hung around their necks in a packet.

The term wop is one all Italian Americans hate! I heard it used too many times in my early days. Insulting and disparaging! I find it revolting even now though it is rarely spoken.

In any event, by the time the Italians reached Ellis Island, most of them had lost their papers. And thus was the word wop born: with out papers!

My grandfather was with out papers!

My grandfather only spoke Italian. The immigration officer at Ellis Island apparently only spoke English or at the most very little Italian.

My grandfather was asked his name. Remember he had no papers by which to be identified. He did not understand. He thought they were asking him what he did for a living. So he told him he was a patron. Patron is Italian for boss. My grandfather was telling the officer he was a boss of sheepherders!

The officer wrote down Petrone and thus was born our family name!

I share this story with pride.

Where do I begin?

My recent political blog re Obama and Clinton brought a hell of a response! Some good, some bad.

We all know there are some people who dislike the Clintons. What I did not know, or better stated had forgotten, is that there a lot of Kennedy haters out there also.

Wow!

I was raised never to discuss politics or religion. People are sensitive. Toes may be stepped upon.

However I enjoy a good exchange of thoughts and ideas! So I especially welcomed the responses which did not agree with me. Though I was surprised at their forcefulness!

Exchanges of this nature are healthy. The key is for more people to express themselves, rather than harbor their feelings internally. We all learn from discourse. Even heated. As long as an open mind is maintained. Sometimes some of us do change our minds.

However I have not in the case of Obama. I am still rock solid in support of him! So climb on the band wagon! A new day awaits!

Yesterday was a big day politically! Exciting and memorable!

Ted Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama!

Presidnet Kennedy’s daughter Caroline had endorsed him the day before.

Big endorsements! A major boost for Obama!

I watched the endorsement live on TV. It brought tears to my eyes. Seems to be happening a lot lately.

I was part of that ’60s generation. And of course a Kennedy supporter! I was a bit active politically in those days.

One of the highlights of my brief but potent political career was a private meeting I had in Rome, New York with Robert Kennedy. I shall never forget his grip, piercing eyes and equally piercing comments. It was a business political meeting. He was an impressive and compelling man. I would have followed him to hell or anywhere else after that meeting!

We lost that special spirit when we lost President Kennedy and Robert Kennedy.

I was hopeful it would return. We need it as a nation! We need it as a people!

I felt it yesterday with Senator Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama. I sensed it earlier over the past several months as I listened to Obama speak. I have been telling people he reminded me of John Kennedy.

He does! There is no question about it now!

The race is not over. The February 5th primaries may be the deciding factor. Whatever, Obama is on the run! I hope the country backs him!

I am a political junkie at heart. Most of my readings are political/governmental in nature. I am presently reading Madeline Albright’s Memo To a President for example.

So permit an additional comment/observation.

Bill Richardson is the next important political endorsement. The cry seems to be that the Latino vote is large, perhaps larger than the black vote, and needed for victory in this presidential primary and subsequent election. The group interestingly has tended to be Republican. Those that are registered Democrats have indicated early support for Clinton.

They must be brought into the Obama camp! Latino support is crucial to Obama’s success.

That is where Richardson comes in. He is Latino by heritage. And by nature. He has dropped out of the Democratic primaries. He has yet to indicate who he supports for the nomination. It is time for him to step up and endorse Obama. The train is leaving the station.

Reflecting on the importance of the Latino vote is the fact that Senator Kennedy has announced he will be campaigning for Obama next week in the southwestern states. Shades of his brother Robert Kennedy who supported supported the Latino grape workers in the 1960s. He actually went to the fields to talk with them and offer help.

All very interesting!

My father is 93. Soon to be 94.

When I am in Utica, we have developed routines.

One of them is to visit Barnes and Nobles.

My Dad has lost several inches over the years due to osteoporosis. He is hunched over. Cannot stand straight. A family trait! His brothers and sisters were similarly afflicted. Not bad to handle though if you can live to his age and have most of your faculties!

He keeps falling and breaking bones. So his gait is unsteady. Also he cannot lift his left arm. He has to be helped putting on and taking off his jacket. Seat belts are a problem for him also. He cannot secure or unsecure the belt. I tell him to leave it off. He says no! He does not wish to hurt himself if there is an accident.

Anyhow we go to Barnes and Noble. We sit at a table. We have books which we read. We never buy them. Only pick them up to continue reading each time we go. And we drink coffee.

Actually there is little book reading that takes place. We talk. About everything and anything. And we look. At the younger women!

A very vitalizing experience for him! And me for that matter also!

I will see an attractive young lady and might commnet…great ass! Or…great breasts! He will look and after a while grunt approvingly. It takes time for his eyes to focus.

We do not stay long. My father tires easily. It is all too much for him!

Recollections of my youth are running rampant in my mind!

Seeing my cousins at the hospital for the first time in years and being “home” in Utica this past week have kindled such thoughts. And good one’s they are!

I was born of Italian parents. My mother was born in Italy. My father here of parents that had immigrated from Italy to the United States.

The first six years of my life were spent at 923 Jay Street in Utica. The heart of the Italian ghetto!

In fact, for the first six years of my life I thought all people were Italian and Catholic! I knew no other ethnic nor racial nor religious type. For real!

Home was a three story six family structure. My grandfather Louis, after whom I am proudly named, purchased the building as he was starting his family. Eventually the whole family lived in the building.

The building again was 3 stories. Three apartments in front and 3 in the rear. My grandparents lived in the first floor front apartment. My Aunnt Fannie and Uncle Frank in the second floor front. My parents and I third floor front. In the rear, my Aunt Ange and Uncle Frank lived. Above them my Uncle Maurice and Aunt Mary. And in the third floor rear, my Uncle Gee Gee (aka Louis) and Aunt Rocatella. And, of course, each Aunt and Uncle’s brood lived with them!

The building was a ghetto unto itself!

It was a fun family place! As was the neighborhood!

And every building around us was similarly occupied. Whole families in one building.

The apartments were all the same. A large kitchen, 2 bedrooms and a living room.

At first there was no bathroom in the apartment itself. When I was about 2, my grandfather had private bathrooms placed in each apartment. Toilet and sink only. No tub or shower.

The apartments were heated with/by the kerosene stove in the kitchen. In the winter my parents would keep feeding kerosene into that stove or we would freeze. The heat from the stove had to stretch to the bedrooms and living room. I can assure you it was never a bit toasty!

Bathing was an interesting routine! Remember there was no shower or tub.

We bathe once a week. Saturday nights. My parents bought a large rubber folding tub. When opened it stood about a foot high. The tub was opened on the kitchen floor. My parents heated pots of water on the kitchen stove. The water when hot was dumped into the rubber tub. When sufficiently full, the baths began!

First my father. The man of the house! Unquestionably the head honcho in an Italian home! He got the clean water!

When he was done, it was my mother’s turn. She got to use the slightly soiled water my father left behind. Then when she was done, it was my turn! I was low man on the totem pole. I truly got everyone’s wash water!

Even then I knew something was wrong. I did not enjoy being the last one in!

I still laugh when I think about it! One bath a week and third man in!

When I was six we moved to James Street. A big deal in every way! We even had a bath tub. But still I was only required to bathe once a week on Saturday! It must have been a cultural thing in my family!

Now I am old and have two homes. Each has four bathrooms and more tubs and showers than can be counted. And I shower 2-3 times a day! Not only out of a sense of cleanliness, but probably also to make up for the times in my youth when I went dirty!

I write this morning’s blog with mixed emotions.

No. No one is dead. The ill are recovering.

I write of rats and pythons once again.

You will recall a few days ago I pointed out that this blog is read far and wide world wide. I apologize for the redundancy, but it sounds good. I also have stated on more than one occasion that the blogs that received the most attention by way of responsive e mails to me were the ones concerning the rat situation at my Key West home.

The interest in rats continues! And with pythons also! Perverse in a way as will soon be evident.

The emails came in from far and wide regarding my most recent rat/python blog.

Camerum is in Africa. So I was told. I had never heard of the place so I did an internet search. It must exist as there are thousands of internet sites for Africa’s Camerum. However I could read none of those I searched! The sites were all in foreign languages unknown to me.

Someone wrote from Milan, Italy. She said she was at a dinner party at a friend’s home in Milan. He had just returned from Camerum in Africa. Beautiful fillets covered with a sauce were served. The host advised the entre was python! A favorite dish in Camerum!

She refused to eat it! She claims that as far as she was concerned it was rat flesh!

You will recall that I wrote a few days ago a python’s favorite food were rats. And that a 10 foot python ingested 75-80 rats a day!

Ugh!

It gets even worse.

One e mail claimed that in parts of China rats are still eaten as a main part of the diet.

Another said that in old Yugoslavia a popular medicine of the time was the ingestion of rats. It was believed to be helpful in healing.

A disgusting topic I agree! However I continue to be overwhelmed by the interest rats seem to hold for the world’s peoples.

Perhaps there is a good side to the rodent we all despise. I doubt it, but the interest factor speaks perhaps to the contrary.

Remember there is a Mickey Mouse! And we all love him!

It is snowing heavy and 5 degrees here in Utica. The sun has risen. I can tell because it is grey and not black outside. No actual sun to see.

The sun actually rarely shines here for 5 months during the winter. Utica sits in historic Mohawk Valley and clouds cover the valley in the winter. To see and feel the sun, you hop in your car and drive in any direction fifteen minutes to a mountaintop.

My days are uneventful. I spend them in an intensive care unit at a local hospital.

There is an old saying that you meet the strangest people in the strangest places. Yesterday I did.

In the intensive care unit.

In 1941 my father bought a two family house on James Street here in Utica. My Aunt Ange and Uncle Frank moved in upstairs with their three daughters, my cousins, Theresa, Albina and Francine.

Italian families clustered like that back then.

My aunt and uncle are long gone. I have not seen my cousins in years.

And there they were in the intensive care unit! All three. Except two were standing and one was in bed. Theresa had a kidney stone. Was killing her! I could see pain all over her face and body. Within minutes she was wheeled to surgery.

I was there after surgery when she awoke. I am happy to report all is well. She even smiled. A beautiful woman. I had not seen that smile in years!

The point of the story is it was good to see my cousins after all this time. I grew up with them. They were part of my every day life. Families tend to drift. Such is life. But again, our meeting though under severe circumstances brought back many fond memories.

I was happy to be with them again. I was sad one of them was in pain.

My eyes welled with tears at seeing them. I thought how sad our paths take us separate ways and the joys and relationships of our youth drift away.

My cousins brought back memories of good family days long gone by.

I am not ashamed to say that my eyes are filling with tears again as I write this.

Rats have garnered my attention since the invasion to my Key West home several weeks ago. You will recall my home was invaded by a nest of rats. We caught 14 on our own in 8 days before the professional exterminator did its job.

Fortunately man prevailed and my home has been rat free since. Or at least I think so!

Anyhow I have become sensitive/conscious to anything having to do with rats.

I reported soon after the demise of the rat intrusion that wood rats were in danger. Wood rats are prevelant in the upper keys. An endangered/protected species. Would you believe it!

I further reported that pythons, yes, pythons!, were creeping into the northern keys from the everglades. And as would be expected and known by all enviromentally concerned keys’ residents, the pythons were a danger to the wood rats. So what I thought at the time! After all the problems I experienced with the rat invasion to my home, I could have cared less if rats of any nature were exterminated!

Well, the rat/python story is back in the news!

A seventh python was recently caught in the Key Largo area. About 100 miles north of Key West.

A 10 footer! The biggest caught yet! They can grow to 20 feet.

There is a fear that a male and a female will emmegrate from the everglades to the keys and mate. That would be terrible! It would! There then would be a brood of pythons and the keys would really be in trouble. We do not need any more critters residing here.

Let’s distinuish the rat population.

Apparently wood rats are vegetarians. Considered good rats by the scientific community.

Black rats are the bad guys! They are abundant in the keys and are described as exotic garbage eaters.

Exotic is an interesting term. Perhaps we should mate the black rats with the pythons! Ho ho! But oh how disgusting! Forgive me!

I suspect the black rats were the one’s who invaded my home.

Black rats are abundant. They are also expendable. I would agree with that statement. So some black rats have been caught and are being used to trap/test the threatened python invasion.

A 10 foot python devours 75-80 rats a day. I should have had one in my house! What is that called? From the frying pan to the fryer?

The bottom line is that nature is taking over. It is telling us humans to move over! Or get out!

This whole rat/python thing is another war we humans have to wage in order to survive.

You may wonder why I take the time to write about this subject matter. The answer is simple. Readers comment on my blogs. They e mail me in droves. The greatest response I have received to any blogs were those concerning the rat invasion to my home. From as far away as China!

Need I say more.

Good morning world!

I come to you this morning from the North Pole!

I have returned to Utica, N.Y.

Think it was cold the past few days in Key West! No way! It is brutal here!

21 degrees with a cold chill of around 0 when I arrived last night. Do not know what it is this morning, but I can tell you it is cold cold! I am bundled up in a big thick robe trying to keep warm as I write this. My fingers may crack in the process!

Flying these days is just wonderful! Not really!

I left my home in Key West at 8:30 yesterday morning. I arrived at my Utica home at 10 last night. 3 planes. All delayed for hours.

The plane from Key West to West Palm left 2 hours late. The West Palm to Newark flight left 3 hours late. The Newark to Syracuse plane left almost 2 hours late.

And no one cares! Neither the airline personnel nor the travelers.

The traveling public has become immune to the airlines screwing up. These delays are now accepted. No one complains any more. What good would it do!

Sad!

Everything is falling apart in this country and we just take it. The cost of gasoline is out of sight! But the rantings of the consuming public have subsided. We spend $50 or more to fill our gas tanks and do nothing to change the situation.

We better get our respective asses in gear and start complaining a bit. Yell! Our cry should be we won’t take it any more!

We are becoming as sheep lead to the slaughter.

Our lives, our future are in our hands! What are we going to do about it? Will we do anything about it?

Yesterday the weather was better! Significantly! Still a bit cool in the morning. By evening, it was in the low 70s.

I stayed in all day doing household chores. Yes, even I must deal with the mundane.

Last night I had a quiet dinner again at the bar at La Trattatoria. Then home to bed to catch the tail end of the Democratic debate from South Carolina.