It is perhaps the height of arrogance to make the assumption that writing words on a page or in a blog means someone actually might want to read them. The Internet provides the newest venue for the human idiosyncrasy that must have begun with scribbling on cave walls. These ancient images testify to the nature of humans, I think, a nature that is unique to our species.
It is with humility then that I offer my musings on the virtual cave walls of Piteo.com. Here I shall scribble my thoughts, opinions, and conjecture. But be warned, these are unfiltered unfettered monographs, certainly not tempered by the “politically-correct police”, unbent by any desire to seem particularly erudite or establish myself as a part of any elite clique.
It may assist the reader to understand some of my background. Perhaps it will not assist the reader – I am going to tell you anyway. I was born at the end of World War II on a kitchen table in New Haven, Connecticut. It was not my good fortune to know the name of either my biological father or mother. To this day all I know of my biological mother is the description shared with me years later someone present at the event. She was described as: “a skinny blonde very young girl with a pale complexion”.
I was raised in a poor inner city neighborhood in the 50s and 60s. It was at times great fun and at times it was very painful. I was raised by a family of Italian heritage, and most notably by a man who was intrinsically moral, just, and courageous. It is this man whose last name I carry and to whom I owe my internal compass for judging good and evil.
In the 50s, I did not know that he was already an anachronism, culturally outdated even for the great generation. I did not know then that the principals he held so dearly were shared by so few people. He died in 1966, he died before he discovered that truth and honor were becoming extinct.
I attended the University of Connecticut during the 60s. It was a time when flunking out of school was punishable by death. I supported the war in Vietnam and I hated the war in Vietnam; such was the nature of the 60s. Most of my dirty-faced pals I played with as a kid would die in the stinking swamps of Southeast Asia. I still feel guilty that they died and I lived.
I married in the 60s, failing to heed the advise of my father whose incredible wisdom I had not yet learned to appreciate. During the 70s, I learned to loath politicians, “middle-class” values, and the promises made by wives. I learned to expect death, love my new children, and to understand the twisted nature of business.
The man I refer to as “father” is my adopted father; I live every day hoping to be worthy to say I was his son. My adopted mother was a strange woman whose story I will never understand, but who joins my birth mother and my ex-wife in a tableau of reasons why I distrust women.
In the 80s, as the world began its gluttonous affair with computers, I became one of Computing’s impresarios. As such, I was on hand to watch the death of the American business ethic. I watched as business in America transformed itself from the idea that a business generates wealth by creating value into the idea that business simply generates cash by creating the illusion of value.
In 1985, I sat at the desk of Igor Sikorsky, trying to appreciate the magnificent industry he created, an industry in which I was playing a tiny part. In 1990, I stood atop the World Trade Center listening to liars tell other liars about technology that knew nothing about. The contrast to Sikorsky and his era was stark. Here in Tower One, in 1990, it was all bullshit.
In 2001, I wept as fanatics incinerated those same towers and 3000 people, some of them close friends. 30 years after political betrayals and deaths in Vietnam, I asked myself: “would America have the courage to stand straight again.”
Thank God in the 90s, I rediscovered my children’s love and the great joy that comes from helping them grow. The 90s was my time to discover just how scarce my father’s honor was in the world and how ill prepared I was for a world run by oily salesman and the pathologically greedy. The 90s tested my willingness to live, yet left me with the profound understanding that truth and honor are valuable in and of themselves.
Truth and honor are valuable things, more so now that they are so rare. I pray for the first environmental group to worry about the extinction of truth, honor, good, and evil. On this planet, where there were once legions of iron men, there remains a truly endangered species of the courageous and honorable.
I was raised a Catholic. I have met wonderful thoughtful Catholic clerics and any number of Catholic idiots. I find Catholic tenets interesting for a variety of reasons, some noble some not. While I was raised by Italians, and while I feel a deep kinship to the Italian culture, only God knows to what ethnic group or race I truly belong.
The absence of definitive connection to specific genetic roots turns out to be a very interesting platform from which to view the world. It is very difficult for an orphan to find any basis for racial prejudice. I believe this allows me and my children to enjoy people as we find them.
Sprinkled throughout my background are significant people and events. These people and events complete the context in which I write; and, from time to time, names, faces, and events will turn up with specificity. If I were creating an “acknowledgement” section, I would surely mention them there. One person must be acknowledged. That man is, of course, Joe Piteo. Joe Piteo was born around 1911 in the United States to immigrant parents. He was the man who snatched me from oblivion in 1945, and he remains the most profound influence on my life.
Update September, 2014
P.S. The words above were written about a decade ago. I think it always terrifies me a little to go back and read something I’ve written ages ago. But I think the paragraphs hold up to the test of time so I decided to use them as the introduction here and now. In the last decade the Piteo family has grown by a son-in-law, and daughter-in-law, and two magnificent grandchildren.