How I Got to Madison Avenue. And beyond.

As with life, this blog is developing and changing. It began with a lot of stories that occurred on my career path from Albany to Madison Avenue and back.

There were some similarities to the AMC series "Mad Men," and then I went even farther back in time with a somewhat fictionalized version of growing up in Troy's Little Italy.

And now, a new development. As my free lance advertising and marketing career winds down, I'm becoming more interested in the theatre arts that my father and his 3 brothers helped instill in me as I grew up.

As a result, I've volunteered to help promote the Theatre Institute at Sage, and now, to continue a long-interrupted desire to be behind the proscenium, I've joined the newly formed Troy Civic Theatre, and was actually fortunate enough to appear in their first production.

So, I hope you'll enjoy the new stories that will develop from this latest turn.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


As we entered the museum, the first object to greet us was an ancient bicycle with an ingenious sharpening wheel, used by an enterprising Frosolonese who would ride from door to door and sharpen the homeowner’s knives, razors and scissors for a fee.

Also at the entrance is an authentic recreation of an ancient work area, complete with actual forge, bellows, tools and tables – even the traditional “flag” window – named for the shape of the opening to the area, the “pole” section serving as a tall, narrow passage, and the “flag” section providing a window and counter for transacting business with the public. This, I was told, was what the original first floor of the La Posta building at Vicoletto Purgatorio would have looked like.

I stood in the place where my ancestors would have stood, trying to imagine working over a hot cauldron of molten iron every day.

What followed then was an amazingly detailed description of centuries of daggers, swords, knives, razors and scissors – in Italian by Nicola, translated into English by Michele. There were medieval implements, “revenge” daggers used only to restore the honor of a cuckold, swords of ceremony and of war, each with a fascinating history – especially if you think your ancestors had a hand in any of it.

The last artifacts we came upon were dozens of items from a private collection, in several glass-covered cases. As it turned out, the last case contained scissors. I had been hoping to see some that bore the family name, but I had just about given up. Not my friend Rich. He looked closely at one pair of scissors in the lower left hand corner of the case – there it was, he said, and he was right – one pair with two names on it: La Posta and Frosolone! We tried to take pictures of it – me with my single use camera, Rich with his cell phone. To most observers, it was just another pair of scissors. But to me, well, I would have to equate what I felt with the same sense of fulfillment that would have washed over a Knight of the Roundtable who had just discovered the Holy Grail.

We thought the tour was over, but there was one more thing to view – a video that recreates the ancient method of making a pair of scissors – just as my ancestors had done. Not only did we sit and watch it, but the DVD, which also features a tour of the town and surrounding area, was for sale, and so I proudly purchased one for ten euros. I also gratefully offered a matching amount as a donation to the museum, and was rewarded with a generous promise from Nicola that if and when he found another pair of La Posta scissors, he would send them to me!

As we left the museum, Nicola and Michele decided that we should see another local product, so they led us into Carmela Colantuono’s panificio (bakery), a few steps away from the museum. Inside was a beautiful display of huge round breads, looking something like giant bagels, presided over by the owner-baker, who was a ringer for my Grandma La Posta. The loaves, Michele explained, were examples of a unique bread, made only at Easter time, and only at this bakery in Frosolone.

According to him, the bread is made of eggs and a spice he called canella. Even though my wife, who was a “Jill of all trades” – including barber, builder and baker – had familiarized me with many spices, I had to look that one up. I discovered that it’s a white cinnamon.

When Michele explained to Carmela what we were doing in Frosolone, she took down one of the loaves, cut it in half with a large knife that was crafted, no doubt, in town, and proceeded to cut generous slices and hand one to each of us. It was sweet, light and delicious.

The baker wrapped the remaining half loaf and presented it to me. I reached for my money, but she insisted that she would take none. I pressed the issue as far as I could without insulting her, then relented and reached for her hand as if to shake it. Instead, in the spirit of the moment, I held her hand in the familiar chivalrous way, bent down and kissed it. She glowed just a little bit, and since the shop was filled only with Italians and Italian-Americans, there was a kind of collective, joyous sound that told me I made just the right gesture at just the right time.

Next: Frosolone reflections and refections

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