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 15, 2011

A Quiet Welcome

As the car approached the sign at the town line, there was some new construction – houses and apartments – that told me Frosolone is not the deserted town I sometimes imagined. I knew it didn’t look like this a hundred years ago or more when the La Postas and other Frosolonesi left, but it wasn’t long before we pulled into the center of town, and found the kind of buildings I had imagined – made of ancient, solid stone, along narrow winding alleys lined with cobblestones.

It was after two o’clock in the afternoon, and, like most of Italy, the stores on the wide main street were closed and the town was quiet. Franco Tartaglia’s bar was open, and inside, Giuseppe Prezioso and a few friends were watching a soccer game on the bar’s tv. Capparela explained why we were there, and immediately they sent someone to bring “the Professor” back to the bar. The Professor, Michele Fazioli, had studied in Rome and has an excellent command of the English language. It turned out that he also runs a hotel in Frosolone owned by Ernesto Fazioli, and of course we agreed to stay there for the night, settling one of the most unsettling questions a traveler without reservations can have in an unfamiliar town in a foreign country.

I knew from some internet research that there had been a Giovanni La Posta who was a scissors maker in Frosolone, and the Professor led us to the building where my ancestor’s home and shop had been. Giovanni had a daughter, who had daughters, and they all moved to other parts of Italy, Michele explained. I was disappointed that no La Postas remained in town. The former La Posta house had been purchased recently and remodeled, complete with a new facade, and we posed for pictures in front of it.

Next, he led us to the monument in the center of town, for more pictures. It’s a memorial to the townspeople who gave the ultimate sacrifice in both world wars, and I read family names that are still known in my hometown of Troy, NY – Caruso, Colaneri, Colarusso, Colavecchio, De Maria, Di Blasio, Fazioli, LaPosta, Mangione, Paolucci, Zampini and more.

While Michele was walking us to the shop of Rocco Petrunti, Frosolone’s forbiciaio (scissors-maker), Nicola Zampini happened to walk by. Michele introduced him to us as the director of Frosolone’s Museo Ferri Taglienti – literally, “museum of cutting irons.” While we went into the Petrunti shop, Michele had a conversation outside with the museum director. He had an idea.

Inside the shop, showing us a dazzling display of razors, knives and scissors made by Rocco, was his father, a man of a certain age, Domenico Petrunti. With Rich’s help, we made each other understood. I wanted to buy a few items stamped with the name of the town, and Domenico went into the back to summon Rocco’s wife, who spoke English. A woman of Asian background with the bi-cultural name of Ching Petrunti appeared, and we had a pleasant conversation as I chose a few pairs of beautiful heron-shaped embroidery scissors with some gold plating for relatives, and pair of barber shears for myself. It wasn’t easy to decide – Petrunti’s range of products is impressive, and his entire catalog can be seen on his website.

Since I was traveling with only carry-on luggage, it would have been impossible to get the scissors through customs on an international flight, so we arranged for them to be shipped to my home. While taking down my name and address, Ching said, “We have a minister named Visco.” Thinking I had made another connection in Frosolone, this time on my father’s side, I asked what denomination, thinking she was referring to a clergyman. She corrected me – “No – he’s Italy’s Minister of Finance.” I planned on researching that when I got home – if I had a relative in high places in Italy, I might be persuaded to make yet another genealogical trip. I did check, and there he was: Vincenzo Visco, Minister of the Treasury, Budget and Economic Planning of Italy. I’ve dropped him a line with some of my family’s background and am waiting to see if we’re related. (What with recent economic news, I fear he may be in hiding.)

We finished our transaction at Petrunti’s shop, which resulted in the cost for shipping the four scissors actually exceeding the purchase price. As we stepped out of the store, there was the Professor with Nicola Zampini, who eagerly offered to open the museum for us, and give us a personal tour of the artifacts there.

Next time: Are LaPosta scissors on view?

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