March 8, 1969: Right After The Vows, Go To Your Room

Guiseppe Greco and Marcella Risciglione married in Paterno,holding-hands-dating Sicily, in 1969. The 21-year-old groom was an auto mechanic, the bride a sixth-grade student. She was 12. Somehow convinced that their parents would never agree to their marriage, the couple slipped away from home and spent two nights together, knowing that an unwritten Sicilian Code of Honor would leave their parents with no choice but to let them marry. Which they did.

Marcella’s father had the last word however. He grounded the newlyweds, not allowing them to go on a honeymoon. “She will go back to school and he to work on Monday,” said the father. And they will lose all Facebook privileges when it is invented.

A couple of centuries earlier, a poor young lad about Guiseppe’s age was walking down a London street, gazing into shops and lamenting his own poverty.  His fancy was taken by a portrait in one of the shop windows and he wondered to himself if he too might paint such portraits and perhaps earn a farthing or two.  (This was long before the days of ‘draw me three inches tall’ on matchbook covers.)  He hurried home, scraped together brushes, paints and a bit of a broken looking glass and set about painting a small portrait of himself..  He was quite pleased with the result, and others evidently were as well, since he began to get gigs painting miniatures.  Success followed and he eventually was called on to paint various VIPs including King George III.

One day when the poor King was too far gone in his mental malady to sit for portrait painters, our now thriving artist drew a quick portrait of the King on his own thumb nail.  He later meticulously transferred the portrait to ivory.  The portrait delighted the King who paid the artist a hundred guineas for it.

The artist was Robert Bowyer, a name that rings precious few bells in the art world today.  When he is thought of at all, it is in relation to the profession of his later years as a printer and in particular as the printer of an edition of the Bible that came to bear his name — an elaborate and costly work of 45 volumes with over 600 engravings.

 

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February 14, 278: Roses Are Red, Etc., Etc.

How did St. Valentine’s Day become a day associated with hearts and flowers and all things romantic? One account puts a definitely sinister spin on the origin of this holiday. It begins back in the third century with a fellow named Claudius the Cruel. As you might guess, Claudius is not going to be the hero of this tale.

Claudius (II, if you’re counting) was the Emperor of Rome, a barbarian that proved that any young boy can grow up to be emperor if he believes. Valentinus, or Valentine, was not a saint at the time, but he was a holy priest.

Claudius, in addition to his barbarianism and cruelty, was a bit of a be_my_valentine_coloring_pagewar-monger. Continually involved in bloody campaigns to destroy upstart nations throughout the region, Claudius needed to maintain a strong army.  But it was a constant battle to keep his military at full strength what with Christianity gaining a toehold and everyone  into family values. The men for their part were unwilling to be all they could be in the army because of their annoying attachment to wives and families.

Claudius had a fairly simple solution; he banned all marriages and engagements in Rome. Valentine, part of whose livelihood was the performing of marriages, thought this decree unjust and defied the emperor by continuing to marry young lovers on the sly.  Claudius, as emperors will, got wind of Valentine’s doings and, true to his name, ordered that Valentine be put to death. Valentine was arrested and condemned to be beaten about the head, and then have said head cut off. The sentence was carried out on February 14, 278.

Legend has it that while in jail, Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter, with whom he had had a brief relationship (that will not be explored here), and signed it “From Your Valentine.”  There may have been other cute little Valentine poems as well,  but they have been lost to history.

For this, Valentine was named a saint and had a holiday created after him, though not a legal one with school closings and such. Conspiracy theorists will naturally jump up and down, saying there were several St. Valentines and the holiday could have been named after any one of them. Or it could have come from the pagan festival Lupercalia, a day of wanton carrying on. They should mind their own business.

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Pirates in the Caribbean?

TERRYCOVERMay2That’s just the stuff of movies or amusement park rides.  At least that’s what Terry thought until he was thrown overboard while boating and washed up on a remote Caribbean island in front of the Booby Bay Cafe.  He soon finds himself caught up in a cockeyed 21st century pirate adventure. When the cafe is torched by the evil Murchison Keyes, a band of brave but maladroit buccaneers hoist the pirate flag and sail into misadventure amid romance, danger and plenty of gratuitous swashbuckling.
 

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March 8, 1969: Right After The Vows, Go To Your Room

Guiseppe Greco and Marcella Risciglione married in Paterno,holding-hands-dating Sicily, in 1969. The 21-year-old groom was an auto mechanic, the bride a sixth-grade student. She was 12. Somehow convinced that their parents would never agree to their marriage, the couple slipped away from home and spent two nights together, knowing that an unwritten Sicilian Code of Honor would leave their parents with no choice but to let them marry. Which they did.

Marcella’s father had the last word however. He grounded the newlyweds, not allowing them to go on a honeymoon. “She will go back to school and he to work on Monday,” said the father. And they will lose all cell phone privileges when it is invented.