Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summertime Blues

We logged the first couple of days of summer this week, with the solstice marking the longest day of the year on Monday, June 21. But the warm and sunny weather that usually accompanies our season of daylight has been "absent without leave."

Weather wonks generally concur that Eugene has set a new record for the latest arrival of an 80 degree day. As rock-and-roll icon Eddie Cochran might croon: "there ain't no cure for the summertime blues."

However, longtime hiking/climbing companion Steve Still and I may have found the antidote for the tepid start to summer with a hike up Deception Butte on Tuesday, June 22, when the sun made a cameo appearance just long enough for us to complete the trek. The trail starts near Deception Creek (above), which looks a lot like the set of Jurassic Park, and ascends to the 4000-foot summit of the butte.

The hike would mark the first trip for my new boots, a pair of Vasques that REI so graciously provided me after my Montrail Moraines expired on the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington last summer (

So this would be my first hike in an effort to "break in" my new boots, which I've always considered a misnomer: the boots actually "break in" the feet, which can be quite painful. Three miles in, I was back in my tennis shoes, with hot spots on both heels.

Other than that it was a fabulous hike: solid workout with no bugs. The mountain rhododendrons were in bloom (above) and the temperature was quite pleasant. The summit provided views of the town of Oakridge and Diamond Peak (below).

Who said "there ain't no cure for the summertime blues?"

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mia Nonna

In anticipation of my trip to Italy later this summer, I thought I'd provide you -- my faithful readers -- with some background on my ancestry, starting with my grandmother; she was christened Gemma Emilia Bricchetto near Genoa, Italy in September, 1893.

As previously noted in these pages, she came to America in 1912 at the age of 18, along with her mother, Maria, and siblings Paul (16) and Eva (13). Her father, Giovanni (John) Bricchetto, had emigrated to the United States in 1899, abandoning the family for a new life in Boston, Massachusetts with another woman.

While her mother was along for this adventure of a lifetime, everybody involved knew who was riding herd on this brood: my grandmother, of course! She went by "Emilia" but also answered to "Gemma" or much later, "Gramma" or "Tata" (aunt).

Crossing the Atlantic Ocean, Emilia and her family negotiated the entire breadth of the U.S. enroute to Portland, Oregon, of all places. Most other Italian immigrants settled in Boston, New York, Chicago or other east coast cities. But they had family in the City of Roses and that's where they landed. None ever returned to Italy, even to visit.

After her first husband had died unexpectedly, my grandmother married Carl Joseph Cargni, an immigrant from the Piedmont region, famous for the Italian Alps.

Carl and Emilia raised two children: my mother, Charlotte Nitta Cargni and my uncle, John Valentino Cargni. All in all, they had eight grandchildren, most of whom are pictured below.

My grandfather died when I was very young, so I didn't really have the opportunity to know him. My grandmother, however, lived to be 93 and was a guiding presence in many of our lives into adulthood.

As the eldest in a family of five, I spent a considerable amount of time with "Gramma" as she was known. We even lived with her for a time. All the kids loved to go to Gramma's house, and not just because of her cooking, which was eccellente.

For me, Emilia provided me with needed wisdom, insight and humor, much like "Old Lodge Skins" in Little Big Man, the Native American grandfather of Dustin Hoffman's character in the movie. To say she had a profound influence on many of our lives would be an understatement. Although she passed away in December, 1986, she will always remain mia nonna -- my beloved grandmother.

As I reflect on my grandmother today -- on Father's Day, 2010 -- I recall that her biggest regret was that she never saw her father, John Bricchetto, again. She always said she would have loved that.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

"Batti Il Ferro Finché è Caldo"

The Italian phrase in the headline means, quite literally, to "strike while the iron is hot." Doing just that last week, I pulled the trigger and booked passage to Italy, the land of my forebears, in September.

The plan is to fly into Milan and then travel by train to Genoa in the province of Liguria. My grandmother lived near Genoa in the village of Orero before emigrating to the United States with her family in 1912.

My grandmother -- Gemma Emilia Bricchetto (below left, seated) her sister Eva (below right, standing) her mother and brother -- arrived by ship at Ellis Island about the same time as the sinking of the Titanic.

In fact, the Brichetto familia would have been sailing across the Atlantic at the exact same time as the RMS Titanic, which left England on April 10 and sank on April 15, 1912. My grandmother's ship, the "Ancona," which departed from Genoa on or about April 9, arrived in New York on April 23, 1912, nearly 100 years ago.

Establishing a base at a hotel in Genoa, the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, I'll spend the first week exploring the Italian Rivera and the coastline east of the seaport leading to Cinque Terra (above, top).

Next, I'll travel to Turin in the province of Piedmont in the Italian Alps to visit the home of my grandfather, Carl Joseph Cargni.

Growing up in the shadow of massive, snow-clad Mt. Rosa (below, bottom) in the little village of Chialamberto, my grandfather led caravans through the Alps to France in his youth. Carl emigrated to America in November, 1904.

Perhaps not coincidentally, my grandparents -- who both hailed from the northwestern corner of Italy, a land of scenic seashores and majestic mountains -- relocated to the northwestern corner of the United States, a land of scenic seashores and majestic mountains.

My long-awaited trip to Italy will begin on September 7, flying from Eugene to San Francisco to Frankfurt, Germany, then on to Milan and arriving in Genoa on September 8. Bellissimo!