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, June 12, 2011

Frosolone to Troy

In March, I went looking for La Posta scissors in a small Italian town most Italians don’t even know about, and discovered coincidence, history and mystery.

Just as I finished writing about my trip to Italy for the Record, and selecting photographs, printing captions and cutting them apart with scissors that I bought in my Grandfather Frank La Posta’s hometown of Frosolone -- I opened my e-mail and found a family.

The subject line read “Hi from Italy,” and the sender was Rita La Posta!

The people I had met in my overnight stay in Frosolone had given my e-mail address to the daughters of the last La Posta who made scissors there, and the youngest daughter, a high school English teacher, was writing to me.

From internet research, I had discovered that Giovanni La Posta was a Frosolone scissors-makers, but not when. And although Michele Fazioli, my self-appointed Frosolone tour guide who took me to Giovanni’s house and shop, told me that Giovanni had daughters that had all moved away, I didn’t ask for a time line.

So it was a total surprise to learn that we descendants of Lansingburgh store owners Frank and Rose La Posta have four living, distant cousins. And, luckily for us, one of them teaches the language we speak.

Rita told me that her father, the Giovanni that I knew about, did indeed have four daughters, born in the late 1940's and 50's in this order: Felicetta, Antonietta Maria, Michelena Loreta and Rita.

I was impressed to learn that they all had become teachers. And that Michelina was named in honor of their grandfather, Michelangelo La Posta, whose name I had seen on the Frosolone war memorial. He was just 26 when he perished, during the first World War.

Felicetta and Rita live in a town called Agnone that’s forty minutes away from Frosolone, Michelina lives two and a half hours away in Pontinia, and Antonietta lives in the very area most Italians thought I was looking for: Frosinone. I replied to Rita’s e-mail with some Troy information, and before she even had a chance to respond, her sister in Frosinone sent me her first e-mail. Shortly after that, Michelena wrote, and even attached some old family photos.

It’s remarkable how gracious and pleased my Italian cousins are to have learned of my existence. Rita has invited me to stay with her and her family – husband Carmine Di Pasquo, a veterinary surgeon, and their two teen-aged children, Alfredo and Angela. And Antonietta, learning of my search for La Posta scissors, has generously offered to send me a pair of forbici from the few that remain in her family.

I thanked them both for their offers, but when I discovered that the four sisters return to their hometown every August for two weeks, I suggested that I gather up some of their other American cousins and try to have a family reunion at the Frosolone Forging Festival. If the La Posta sisters still want us to have a pair of family scissors then, fine. We’ll trade some of our mementos.

In the meantime, as the connections continue,we’re trading LaPosta family photos. Here are some of hers:

We’ve already begun to fill in stories of a century ago and more. Their granddad had a brother and a sister who came to America, and this could be my grandfather and his sister, or their relatives.

Rita remembers meeting her visiting American aunt Modesta La Posta in Italy in the late 1960's. My mother’s name was the same (although she adopted the name Esther), and we think she was named after that Modesta.

There is another mystery that Rita mentioned: all of her grandfather Michele’s family had come to America, but he was forced to wait for unknown reasons, and remained in Italy. Otherwise, there might have been no La Posta sisters in Frosolone at all.

But as Rita says, in two languages: the world is so small (Il mondo è così piccolo), and we’ve found out just how small. After a century has passed, Michela’s son Gennaro has made the trip to America that his great-grandfather couldn’t. He has won a scholarship to study for his master’s degree in mathematics at Yale, where the daughter-in law of another Troy cousin, Jim La Posta, works. So there was a La Posta at Yale to welcome Gennaro.

I’ve extended an open invitation to Gennaro and all his relatives to stay with me whenever they can visit and explore Troy.

Until then, I’ve been sending Rita copies of what I’ve written, which she reads with her English class and plans to have published in Italy. While she calls it a fantastic opportunity; it’s at least another wonderful coincidence. I’ll bet there are even more ahead.

Next - back to the beginning.

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