by Rich Monetti (on the GEEK)
Every summer, as the sizzle perspires from the cement, urban thoughts of running streams, flowing grass and cool mountain breezes inherently materialize around every New Yorker and only subside with the arrival of fall. But few would consider the very nearby setting today that many Italian families once made an affordable respite and desired vacation getaway. A sentiment reflecting the desolation this upstate destination of a bygone era now suffers. Nonetheless, a holdout remains and is the subject of The Last Resort.
So for those completely at a loss in the younger generations, the only introduction that suffices with a question: What the hell are the Catskills “Exactly. Right now there’s one Jewish place and three Italian places. I used to go to a place called Villa Maria," said Filmmaker Dante Liberatore. “The whole setting was an extension of little Italy for Italians. It meant going to a place with people just like themselves and reminded them of home in Italy where they could catch the mountain breeze.”
Unfortunately, the Catskills sunk as Americans were no longer grounded by the high rates of travel. “When the airlines went through deregulation, prices fell dramatically. This giving people so many more options – who really wants to go to the mountains and look at trees,” said the Yonkers born writer.
Still, who does a movie about the Catskills. “After finishing my previous project on Arthur Avenue, the producer wanted to do another Italian themed film. So I said, why don’t we go see if there’s any Italian resorts left in the Catskills,” said Liberatore....
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A series of fires, suspected to have been started by arsonists, have broken out on the slopes of Italy's Mount Vesuvius just outside the city of Naples, prompting several evacuations of both tourists and local residents. The huge plumes of smoke rose a mile into the sky about the volcano's summit, looking very much like eruptions of the past.
There have already been two fatalities as a result of the fires and at least 10 people have been treated at local hospitals for smoke inhalation. One man died while trying to extinguish a fire near his property in the Cosenza province. Another man was found dead in the Vibo Valentia province. Over 1000 tourists have been relocated due to their proximity to the blaze.
The past few months in Italy have been very dry and hot, creating ideal conditions for wildfires throughout Italy. There are also many wildfires currently being fought in Sicily, for example. Even more locally, wildfires are also currently burning on the Amalfi coast, while up and down Italy, 200,000 acres have burned so far this year. This past Tuesday, 197 fires were reported, with heavy rains in the north helping the effort in stopping them.
After another sweltering day today, the temperatures are going to drop a bit in southern Italy and the chance of thunderstorms will increase. The rainfall will be welcome in combating the fires, but they may also start new fires with their lightning.
Is the Mafia Involved with the Fires?
As reported by the Guardian and other news sources, many of the hundreds of fires sweeping Italy this summer might have been started by organized crime families. In one incident, a firefighting helicopter was shot at and a communications beacon used by firefighters near Naples was put out of operation.
"There is a clearly an offensive under way, presumably organized by the powerful Casalesi Camorra clan," a regional government official, Corrado Gabriele, told Il Giornale. "Behind these simple fires hides a business worth millions, with the Camorra aiming to create new zones for building."
Some have called for the army to be sent into the area to help with security. Italy's Environment Minister, Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, said the fires were a "real criminal assault on the country's parks and other areas ... by people linked to organized crime groups and illicit construction".
The Italian environmental group Legambiente has said more than half of all Italy's fires are started deliberately, whether by organized crime, building speculators or farmers seeking more land to cultivate.
Some groups have suggested rewards for turning in arsonists be offered while others suggest importing more sheep (and shepherds) might lesson the possibility of wildfires. There have be less shepherds in recent years, allowing fields of grass to become overgrown and dried, creating more fuel for fires.
Whatever the reason for the fires, we wish our Italian cousins well through this difficult time.
Stay safe, miei amici.
Coming from a broken home, Al Pacino was raised by his mother and her parents. As it turns out, his maternal grandparents--John and Kate Gerardi--emigrated to America from Corleone, Sicily, the very town that fictitious Vito Corleone hailed from and borrowed its name.
Less than 40 miles from Palermo, the town of Corleone had a genuine reputation as a Mafia town and spawned its share of Mafia kingpins, the reason the town was immortalized by Mario Puzo in his book, The Godfather and Coppola in his Godfather trilogy.
Pacino is quoted as saying, “In America, most everybody who’s Italian is half-Italian--except me. I’m all Italian. I’m mostly Sicilian, and I have a little bit of Neapolitan in me. You get your full dose with me.”
His grandparents didn't get rich when they came to American, however. Pacino's early life was a struggle with the family being poor. Pacino’s parents divorced when he was a toddler and his mother raised him with the help of her parents in the Bronx, New York. He became a high school drop-out and worked at a variety of odd jobs--messenger, janitor, clerk, and busboy. He was even homeless for a while in the 1960s.
Both Pacino’s mother and grandfather supported his efforts to become an actor. He spent endless hours watching old movies on their black and white television, often acting out the parts for his grandparents. His first significant role was in 1968, portraying a young punk in the play The Indian Wants the Bronx.
I remember meeting Pacino on the streets of Manhattan one night back in the early seventies. He was leaning on a car outside of an upper west side restaurant along with a very tall British actor, Paul Benedict who had a role as the neighbor on the Jeffersons sitcom. The height difference was obvious between the two. I am a short man, but as Pacino stood up, I thought he was standing off the curb--he wasn't. He is really that short.
He is a great actor... and he has something in common my wife Lisa. Lisa's grandfather was also from the town of Corleone--Giuseppe Friia.
Small town. Small island. Small world.