Monday, April 25, 2011

Clement Berovic

There are so many times lately that my comments on something or anything would be "Been there, done that."  Just by being on planet Earth for 61 years gives you a pretty vast knowledge base.  So when you meet someone whose every sentence holds new information, one becomes attracted to them much like a magnet to iron.  And thanks to my dear friend Sue Boroski, I had the welcome opportunity to meet her amazing father, Clement Berovic yesterday at a family Easter dinner.

Many people from Slovakia, or "the old country" would first say that Mr. Berovic is beautiful because he looks like he comes from Slovakia.  So you might ask, how does a person look that comes from Slovakia?  Well, meet Mr. Berovic and see for yourself.  You see, I grew up in a town that was about 90 percent Slovak.  I know how you're supposed to look.

First, you carry yourself with pride.  Pride in yourself, in your family, and in your heritage.  And then additional pride in specifics of your heritage like food, music, Slivovice (that one is for those with INSIDE knowledge) clothing, and faith.  An undying love for your God, your homeland, and your family.

You dance at weddings.  You sing lustily (as if Luther or Calvin instructed you themselves).  You thank God before you eat and drink and also WHILE you are eating and drinking.  You laugh out loud.  You cry at weddings, funerals and at Christmas.  The people around you are truly innocent until proven guilty.  You are patient.  Kind.  All of the qualities of a Boy Scout from Bratislava.

Thanks to Clement Berovic, I was reminded yesterday of a simpler time in my life when I grew up with Johnny Peccon and Frankie Yankovic and the Blue Skirt Waltz playing on countless phonographs in Smock, Pennsylvania, my home town.  We even learned all three verses to Ja parobek z'Kapusan.  (I even learned how to play this on the harmonica!!)  I remembered times when even a 12 year old kid could sneak a shot and a cigar after dancing with a beautiful Slovak bride.

What Mr. Berovic made so crystal clear to me was that much of the lifestyle of a "hunky" kid in Western Pennsylvania in the 1950's and even in to the 60's was that most everything we did involved music.  We heard it at baptisms and funerals.  Weddings and in school.  In church and on the way home from church when Johnny Sims would belt out the polkas on every radio on my street.  He reminded me of those beautiful Slovakian hymns at Christmas that even all the old "baba's" would sing.

So "Pap", I'd like to publicly thank you for your smile, your kindness, and your old-country ways.  We have all become modern in our lifestyles but mention "matka" or St. Stanislaus and watch the eyes gloss over with a tear.

I am worried that our modern society may someday forget all of those good things that were taught by grandma and Dzedoh.  And people like Clement Berovic.  That would be such a shame.

Quite honestly, I never want to find out who really stole the keeshka.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Truth

If you know me, then you know that I'm easy.  Easy to convince, easy to fool.

This week, I got fooled.  Bamboozled.  Taken for a ride.  And tonight, I'm smarting from that.  But believe me, it's not worth telling you the details.  It's really no big deal.

It just bugs me why more people nowadays cannot face up to the truth.  We seem to get along better when we do face facts.  We're resilient.  Strong.  Well, some of us anyway.

I was a Boy Scout for two glorious weeks.  In those two weeks, I learned to tie complex knots that I thought I'd never use again.  I also learned the Boy Scout Law.  You know, thrifty, brave, etc.?  The FIRST thing mentioned in that law is that a Boy Scout was trustworthy.  Webster says that a synonym of trustworthy is honest.  Even though I learned that I could build a fire faster and better than my alcoholic scoutmaster, I still think that every kid should be MADE to be a Boy or Girl Scout.  It's like the Army for children.  Without the curse words.

But what I find mostly in this world today is that we are an Army of liars.  Sure, there are exceptions and very exceptional people, but for the most part, we practice to deceive.  We have to have organizations like Truth in Advertising.  And did you ever notice when kids play Truth or Dare, a fine game I believe instituted by 1990's role model Madonna, that most of the time, "dare" wins out over truth?

We have coined phrases like "Honest to God" and "Trust me".  I once trusted my criminally insane cousin from Cleveland and he darn near cut off my finger. (I've got the scar to prove it too.)

There used to be a time in the past when we could trust people as far as we could throw them.  And because of that trust, the "con man" was invented and some paid dearly for trusting.  Most of us have been ripped off at least once.

Today's society seems to honor liars.  We elevate them to places like the front pages of newspapers and magazines and even celebrate their deceit.  Comedian Jon Lovitz made the character of "professional liar" Tommy Flanagan recognized nationally.

When questioned about a potential lie nowadays, it's expected that we all utter the despicable word "whatever", telling the world that we simply don't care.  It's the watchword of indifference.

OK, I'm not Saint Bob or even close, but the deliberate distortion of the truth is still a lie, no matter how nicely you dress it up and call it "awesome".  By the way, GOD is awesome and NOTHING else.  Can we please move on to the next word?

Why aren't we offended by lies any more?  When did we start playing down deceit by calling it a "little white lie"?  And what is that anyway?

And how do I know that there are so many people telling untruths in the world today?  Their pants are all on fire.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why can't you be like the neighbors' kids?

One of the people that I have literally known for decades tells me that when his father (RIP) used to be fed up with his acting out, he'd say "Why can't you be like (fill in appropriate neighbor name)'s kids?

I got it too.  Not because the neighbor's kids were so good, but because I was so bad.  I think that my parents simply wanted a normal child instead of a child descended from Old Scratch or one of the Children of the Corn.  And hey, I wasn't THAT bad.  I couldn't chant Latin phrases from the Necromancer.  Besides, I'd need a demonic chorus for that.

Often times, parents would unjustly compare us to the kid next door.  "Look at how nice Fritzy rakes his yard and how lousy YOU do it."  "Jimmy is always so nice and clean and look at YOU...grass stains and mud!!!"  "Why can't you be like them?"  Not even "MORE like them."

The truth?  I am more like the neighbor's kids than you know.

When my dad left us when I was 11, my father figure left with him.  But if I followed this example, I too would have no doubt left my wife for a younger but way less attractive model too.  For you see, as I try to recall things today (and by the way, I'm really GOOD at recalling things), I cannot remember more than one or two things my father actually taught me.  One was how to tie a necktie.  But I remember that I got so giddy at getting the Windsor knot right for the first time, I began to laugh and he let me have the back of his hand across my face.  Why couldn't HE be like my neighbor's dad?

I had relatives down the street.  My grandparents, their daughter (my aunt) and her husband and three children.  I loved my grandparents.  Worshipped them.  And I miss them to this very day.  Go back and read what I wrote about them in my first blog (http://www.bobpegritz.blogspot.com/) in "Clothes Make the Man" and "Mary Ponzurick".

In the other side of my grandparent's home lived my aunt, uncle and their three kids.  And to this very day, I am convinced that Aunt Helen and Uncle Mike harbored a very deep hatred for me.  Except for my cousin Carol, who gave me two gifts that I still have to this very day.  One is the gift of tying shoelaces and the other is the way that I comb my hair.  Yep, I've not changed my hairstyle since that day in the 1960's when Carol combed my hair down on my forehead and said "You look beautiful".  I almost melted in the concrete sidewalk.  My other two cousins, Carol's brother and sister, have never tried to contact me.  Ever.  But I'm sure if someone were to ask them why, they would say something like "Well, HE never tried to contact us."  No problem, guys.  I'm doing fine and I'm sure you are too.

The reason for this bit of truth is that through the backchannels, I have heard that my so-called family accuses me of telling lies and making suggestions that they aren't the best people in the world.  I sincerely hope that they will now see that I have gotten over the "suggesting" stuff and simply tell the truth.  They were far from the best.  But who isn't?

Now you may be asking yourself, why has Bob gone all postal and has begun to sling arrows and spears toward his relatives?  The truth is that they slung first.  Does that give me license to sling back?  No.  This may prompt you to ask, "so what then?"

Look, I owe my upbringing to you.  All of the friends, family and strangers who have, for better or worse, entered my life and unknowingly gave me a few examples of how to be or how not to be.  Yep, I even learned from the bad ones.  You are the ones that have taught me right from wrong.  Did it work?

It depends on who you ask.