I’m madder than Pavorotti with frog in his throat after he ran out of hair dye over the fact that my sainted mother never taught me how to speak the mother tongue right, and now all I know in Italian are words I can’t spell because we Sicilian-Americans are constantly changing our letter “C” to the letter “G,” and we’re always dropping the last vowel.
Look, you all know the ol’Screecher has spent his life working more odd jobs than you could imagine, from my days sweeping up after the elephants on parade when the circus came to town, to my days eating meatball heroes while watching people swim at the Raven Hall pool in Coney Island, to my mornings delivering love letters and bills to the good people of Bensonhurst, but only a choice few know about my time as a short-order cook when I proudly served in the Canadian Moose Mounties for a short time in the 1960s.
It was working that line that I learned that the rest of the civilized world (if you can call Canada civilized) don’t call it “gallamaad” like the rest of us in Brooklyn, but instead use the funny pronunciation of “callamaaree.”
At first, I just thought this was something they were doing wrong because they were French, but when I looked up the actual spelling in my Italian-English, English-Italian dictionary, I saw it was spelled “calamari.” Now, my six years of taking Italian from junior high school through high school didn’t just teach me how to conjugate the verbs — I was told how to actually pronounce things. Still, they never taught us how to say “fried squid” in Italian, so for years I was left in the dark.
Until I got to the Moose Mounties, that is.
Anyways, just because its right doesn’t mean the Screecher is going to adhere to it, so I continued to pronounce things my blessed mother’s despite what these stuck up French Canadians would say. Of course, I was in charge of the line, and I would yell out my orders, and whenever I would screech “gallamaad,” these guys would look at me like I had two heads and no chins.
Sounding like Pepe Le Pew, they would yell back “You mean callamaaree!” and I would say “No! I mean gallamaad!” And they would say “We don’t know what that is,” and I would say “Forget it! Give me an order of fried squid!”
And I would get what I wanted, always eating a few choice, delicious tentacles before sending it on its way.
Now’s the point in the column where a get to the things that makes people feel good about living here in Brooklyn and being surrounded by so many awesome people.
Take little Diana Marie Paunetto, who maintains the same determination, dream and drive that mimics the career of my favorite Italian import, opera singer Anna Maria Alberghetti, who, just like Diane, first performed at 6.
Now 10, Diana is on her rise to stardom.
Here’ how: first of all, here in America, we have Italians with the same love of music flowing in their veins plus that same Italian heritage that so many of us have bettered ourselves, starting with our parents that left their beloved Italy to start a new life. So here we have Diana Marie Paunetto, with not quite the advantages of Albergetti (whose parents were uber famous), but compensated with the drive of her loving parents who recognized the talent of their beautiful daughter and with pure American moxie. Diana’s mom, Anna Maria Paunetto, who I affectionately liken to mother Rose from “Gypsy” guides her daughter to anywhere she can perform, as long as it becomes a learning experience.
Whether its singing “America the Beautiful” for Most Precious Blood Church’s Annual Dinner Dance Fund-raiser, or “Ave Maria” at Mass. Her gorgeous voice has never yet failed to stun the audience. Nor has she never received a standing ovation nor brought a tear to the eye of yours truly!
Diana, who is learning Mandarin, is bilingual in Italian and English. In her Italian School “Little Language Studio’s” production of “Disney in Italiano,” Diana played Jasmine, singing “EL Mondo e Mio,” the same song she performed with extraordinary up coming Tenor Christopher Macchio at the Association of Italian American Educator gala.
Diana also took the role of Dorothy in the Inside Broadway production of “Oz Mania.” Would you believe she plays the violin and looks forward to attending Broadway Camp!
Believe it or not, I had Diana on my knee eight years ago with her brother Brandon, when this Santa maria did “Breakfast With Santa” at Troop 20s annual Boy Scout fund-raiser at the New Utrecht Reformed Church’s Parish House on 18th Avenue (also known as Cristoforo Colombo Blvd).
It seems like just yesterday!
Screech at you next week!
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