f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

January 16, 2008

papa g’s night train

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 8:58 pm

[Jitterbug Stamp] My retired mail-carrier Dad, Arthur P. Giacalone, loved swing music and famously loved to dance. When we went as a family to wedding receptions or other big parties, Papa G. always brought along a change of clothing, so he could shed the damp ones before the last dance with Mama G. [I wrote about Papa G. on his 87th birtday in 2006, and last September, when he and Mama G. celebrated their 60th Anniversary (lots of photos here).]

[big] At his funeral on Monday, one of Dad’s very favorite nieces reminded us that their eyes would meet whenever a band started to play “Night Train,” and then they would jitterbug together like crazy to the delight of all. (Click for jitterbug history, and this fun 1944 instructional video)

jitterbug gene —
dad’s skipped
a generation

………………….. dagosan

Cousin Rose Palazzo’s fond memory of dancing with Uncle Art. got me searching for a video clip of Night Train yesterday, and refreshed my recollection on many dad-and-music-related topics from my childhood. When I learned that Louis Prima did a well-known version of “Night Train,” I smiled broadly — recalling the fun I had with my parents as a (not-yet-jaded, pre-teen) kid, watching the antics of trumpet-playing band leader and “hepcat” Louis Prima and his deadpan, lovely, songstress wife Keely Smith (who can be heard in a 20-minute NPR Fresh Air presentation, from 2002, “Queen of Swing“). As one commentator explains, Italian-American Louis Prima was “one of the few obviously ethnic entertainers who never turned his back on his roots once mainstream success hit.” For example,

“He always revived — to his audience’s delight — Italian novelty numbers [e.g., titles like “Felicia No Capicia” (more),” “Baciagaloop (Makes Love on the Stoop),” “Please No Squeeza Da Banana,” and “Josephina, Please No Leana on the Bell.” ], and much of his performing persona could be traced to the wildly energetic Italian kid who never grew up.”

With much anticipation and satisfaction I located a Prima-Butera Night Train Video version of the song, which had been released on Louis Prima’s “The Wildest!” Album (Capitol Records, 1957), and has an amazing sax solo by Sammy Butera. I don’t think of myself as a swing or jazz fan, but this instrumental made me grin and tap my feet, and immediately recall the great Night Train lyrics (by Lewis C. Simpkins) that dad would occasionally sing — in what was surely my first exposure to an anti-domestic violence theme:

Night train,
That took my baby far away.
Night train,
That took my baby far away.
Tell her
I love her more and more each day.

(Chorus) [“The Wildest!cover]

My mother said I’d lose her
If I ever did abuse her,
Shoulda listened.

My mother said I’d lose her
If I ever did abuse her,
Shoulda listened.

Now I have learned my lesson
My baby was a blesssin’,
Shoulda listened.

[I plan to click on the Prima video link often, to let Night Train help “bring my daddy back to me.” Listen to Eddie Jefferson’s more optimistic version of the song, in which the night train brings his baby back.]

funeral dirge —
we bury the one
who could carry a tune

……… david giacalone – Frogpond 31:2 (2008) – selected for “white lies: Red Moon Anthology 2008

Since my arrival in my original hometown of Rochester, New York, on Saturday, I’ve been treading water in the emotional pond formed by losing a parent. Despite a few tearful episodes, it has mostly felt like a soothing communal hot-tub, warmed with the love and affection of family and friends.

Here are a few more poems that came to mind during my 4-hour trip back to Schenectady today on the New York Thruway:

driving home
from papa’s funeral —
thin noon moon half-empty

bequest wish list
a father’s smile
at the top

dad’s empty chair –
mom lets me cook the pasta
al dente

…………………………… dagosan

Here are a few one-breath poems, by members of our f/k/a haijin family, which in one way or another remind me of a man who was sadly short of breath and unable to jitterbug the past couple of decades.

winter woods
seeing myself
in black and white

………………….. by yu chang – Upstate Dim Sum 2005/1

the pinwheel stops
grandpa catches
his breath

………………… by Randy Brooks, from School’s Out (Press Here, 1999)

one of your sighs
has stayed with me
forty years, so far

……………………… by John Stevenson – Upstate Dim Sum (2005/I)

Discovery channel –
an older male vanquished
heads for the hills

within the red wine
a nap in my chair

my wife catches me
picking from our trash

letting her
walk all over me

without consent
my old sneakers
in the trash

some of the old tire water
on my shoes

the river
full of ice
broken free

……………………. Tom Clausen
“Discovery channel” and “within the red wine” – Upstate Dim Sum (2003/II)
“me wife catches me” – from Upstate Dim Sum 2007/1
“letting her” — being there (Swamp Press, 2005)
“without consent,” “now that I’m over,” and “yardwork” – from Homework (2000)
“the river” Upstate Dim Sum (2005/II)

update (Jan. 17, 2008): f/k/a “Cousin” Ed Markowski knows a lot about family love and loss, and caring for friends. He sent me three poems overnight that belong here in this post:

funeral procession
the silence of the engine
dad tuned last april

winter funeral
a bead of holy water
freezes in mid-air

dad’s funeral
this morning uncle walt
ties my tie

[mama g, 1948]

afterglow (Jan. 18, 2008): That cutie my Dad fell in love with in 1947 loved Glenn Miller, too, and we often heard “Moonlight Serenade” at Casa Giacalone (click for YouTube version), as well as “In the Mood“. Ed Markowski sent us this little gift, which incorporates another of my favorite insects:

moonlit serenade
fireflies appear just beyond
the jitterbugs

…………………………………………. ed markowski

Meanwhile, the rarely-sentimental Prof. Yabut penned this tell-em, and caught me in a weakened condition, so I’m passing it along (with apologies to Groucho Marx):

in the mood
innuendo goes
out the window

afterwords (Jan 21, 2008): Thanks to Gideon at Public Defender Stuff, for including this posting in his stirring 2008 Martin Luther King Edition of Blawg Review [#143].

p.s. A Butterfly Connection: Go here to learn why, from now on, butterflies will remind me of my Dad, and to find a couple dozen butterfly poems by our Honored Guest poets. I’ve uploaded a “butterfly haiku memorial collection for Papa G.,” which is a Word document that you can print from this website, to create a two-sided, trifold brochure. It contains most of the poems found in the butterfly haiku posting.

sunset stroll –
searching snowbanks
for butterflies

……………………………….…………………………… by david giacalone
[in mem., Arthur P. Giacalone; haiga photo by Yu Chang]


  1. What a lovely tribute. Thinking of you, and your family.

    Comment by Anne Reed — January 16, 2008 @ 10:24 pm

  2. Many thanks, Anne. You’re a more-than-virtual friend!

    Comment by David Giacalone — January 16, 2008 @ 11:03 pm

  3. David, A true celebration of your father’s life. I found this haiku of yours very moving as it reminded me of my father, who died 3 years ago today.

    funeral dirge –
    we bury the one
    who could carry a tune

    Comment by Roberta Beary — January 17, 2008 @ 12:11 am

  4. Family funerals are such a strange mix of emotions, not the least of which is true celebration of “us,” in the largest sense of the word. Thanks for the memories.

    Comment by John Stevenson — January 17, 2008 @ 6:30 am

  5. Dearest, Bro’, Your eulogy on Monday was wonderful [no wonder Mom asked you to do it], pulling together the one constant thread that ran thoughout Dad’s long life – love of family. Today’s posting is a bittersweet joy. Thanks so much. Arthur

    Comment by Arthur J. Giacalone — January 17, 2008 @ 8:56 am

  6. Thank you so much, Roberta and John. Knowing my friends have been along the path of parental loss and can help guide and reassure me, while showing how much they care, is most comforting. But, how is an aging curmudgeon gonna get any work done if you keep putting tears in his eyes? [Of course, if I used emoticons, there would be one here.]

    And, many thanks, Arthur. We have not had enough time to commune as brothers and sons since dad died last week, and living 300 miles apart does not help. Thanks for your strength. I would have loved hearing a eulogy by you.

    Comment by David Giacalone — January 17, 2008 @ 9:31 am

  7. Papa G’s Night Train really hit home.

    A true celebration of the love between you and
    Papa G, and your wonderful family!

    Comment by Yu Chang — January 17, 2008 @ 7:35 pm

  8. David, this moving tribute to your father brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing with all of us this heartfelt celebration of family, memories, and love. My thoughts and prayers are with you, my friend.

    Comment by Diane Levin — January 18, 2008 @ 9:47 am

  9. Many thanks, Yu and Diane. I can feel your hugs from here.

    Comment by David Giacalone — January 18, 2008 @ 10:53 am

  10. David:

    Wonderful, beautiful posting. The flow from poem to poem felt so natural, just right.

    “dad’s empty chair” – all, very moving.

    Don @Lilliput Review

    Comment by Don — January 18, 2008 @ 11:53 am

  11. David, you’ve been blessed with a wonderful family. As others have said, this is a wonderful tribute to them.

    Comment by Mary Sexton — January 18, 2008 @ 5:03 pm

  12. Thank you, Mary. It’s been 41 years since we first shared a smile, and far too long since the last time. Hope to see you soon again in D.C., when we can talk of parents and children (and maybe skip presidential politics – since we’ve agreed to disagree).

    Comment by David Giacalone — January 18, 2008 @ 6:56 pm

  13. Your father’s warmth and spirit shine through your words, David. I wish you and all your family every possible comfort, annealing tears included.

    Comment by Peggy Lyles — January 19, 2008 @ 5:13 pm

  14. Many thanks, Don and Peggy. The haijin friends I have made through this weblog have been the source of much comfort.

    Comment by David Giacalone — January 19, 2008 @ 10:37 pm

  15. My band do Sammy’s Night Train, it brings the house down,
    We love you Louis Prima & Sammy

    Comment by Dominic Halpin — November 19, 2008 @ 6:28 am

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