SOFIA, a new novel by Joseph Sciuto, available June 27th

Why do we strive to survive… if not to help each other?



Why do we exist? Joe thought he knew…

Despite being the successful screenwriter behind a series of blockbuster movies, Joe’s personal life is in shambles.


He hasn’t had a date in over eighteen years, and his relationship with the daughter, Sofia, has gone off the rails.


Once a sweet and affectionate child for whom Joe was the sole parent, Sofia’s personality changed dramatically in her early teens.


Sofia’s increasingly explosive, irrational behavior has wreaked havoc on Joe’s family back home in the Bronx.


During a visit with a specialist after experiencing neck pain, Joe meets Kentucky-born beauty, Jennifer.


Jennifer is a pediatric oncology nurse, and over lunch, she and Joe hit it off. Joe soon learns how affable, charming, intelligent and compassionate Jennifer is, and quickly moves to make room for her in his life.


For the first time in decades, Joe can see the possibility of a real romantic relationship, but it’s not long before Sofia’s behavior begins to interfere with his one chance at love.


As the relationships between the daughter, the nurse, and the screenwriter intertwine, Joe discovers what it means to be a family.


He learns just how dark life can be for those whose families are torn apart by illness and loss.


Joe’s grasp of what’s really important shifts from the make-believe world of the movies to the everlasting hope that we can all make a positive difference for those fighting just to live.


SOFIA, a new novel by Joseph Sciuto, author of HOLLYWOOD RIPTIDE,


on sale on June 27th on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and at fine bookstores everywhere.

Available in paperback and for all mobile devices.


41s1CoNwPxL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Thankfully, I have been happily married for nearly 30 years, but after living in Los Angles for over thirty years where divorce is as popular as rooting for the Los Angeles Lakers when they are winning championships year after year, I do have quite a bit of experience dealing with divorced couples.

“Divorce Bullying: An Epidemic,” by Twiggy Bean, Ph.D. Explores the dynamics of bullying during a marriage, during and after a divorce, and points out that the “targets” of bullying are not gender specific and that either the husband or wife can be the bully in the relationship.
Ms. Bean provides ample examples of bullying using real life experiences which she has witnessed while counseling and mediating warring parties and the effects such behavior has on the children in such relationships. Her analysis and perceptions throughout the book are quite compelling and I would strongly advise anyone in a difficult relationship and feels that he or she might be the target of bullying to read this book. I found the book easy to read and it helped me understand the many dynamics in play in relationships that are falling apart.






I walked out of the movie theater on Fifty-Eighth Street and Columbus Circle.

It was late August and there was a cool, refreshing breeze blowing. I thought to myself that, hopefully, this was a good omen and that autumn would be making an early arrival.

The summer, up to this point, had been brutally hot and humid. No amount of drinking ice-cold beer made much of a difference, but I never stopped trying.

I’m sure it didn’t make my father very happy, but my father was such a wonderful and loving person that he didn’t complain, especially since his middle son would be moving to California.

Sadly, our communications suddenly would be limited to letters and very short phone conversations.

For those not alive in 1982, a fifteen-minute phone call from Los Angeles to New York could cost as much as a day’s pay. “Free long distance” would not be in the nomenclature for a few more years.

For those not familiar with Italian culture, phone calls were never finished until everyone in the house had talked to the prodigal son. Many times before hanging up, I would have talked to at least ten people. The idea of time and space (and relative costs) were an alien concept to them.

Deep in thought, I walked down to Fifty-Eighth Street and Park Avenue, across from the entrance to Central Park and looked at the water fountain where people of all ages were sitting and enjoying the cool weather.

For two years, while attending John Jay College, I used to get off the bus directly across from the fountain and walk up to Fifty-Eighth Street and Tenth Avenue where the college was located.

I walked across the street and looked through the window of FAO Schwarz’s toy store and waved to the giant-sized animatronic bear, Teddy Ruxpin, who waved back his “goodbye.”

I was still holding my movie program for the film I had just seen…“True Confessions,” starring Robert DeNiro and Robert Duvall.

I thought it was a good film, and reviewed it to myself as I walked, commenting silently that Duvall’s performance overwhelmed DeNiro’s wooden and stiff presentation.

I had planned to stop in a bar while in Manhattan for the last time, because I literally had no idea when I would be coming back east.

But it just so happened, that I wasn’t in the drinking mood and decided to skip the bar.

And people say miracles don’t happen.

I walked to Fifty-Seventh Street and Fifth Ave and waited for the express bus back to the Bronx.

I was about ten minutes early, and while waiting in line, I heard someone ask, “Did you see that movie?”

I turned, not even sure if the question was intended for me, and looked down at a young lady. “Did you just ask me if I saw the movie?”

“Yes, did you?” She was petite, around eighteen- or nineteen-years-old, and she had lovely olive skin.

Her face was a near-perfect oval, and she was pretty, yet her facial expressions and tone of voice were childish. She was looking at the movie program in my hand.

“Yes, I did see it and it was good.”

“I really want to see it, but I don’t think I will be able to.”

“It’s playing in the Bronx.” I remarked as I handed her the program that she studied with a high level of intensity.

“They won’t let me. I’m so seldom allowed out.”

I looked closely at her as her total focus had shifted to the program.

“Not even to a movie?” I asked.

She looked up and shook her head as she handed the program back to me.

“Do you go to a lot of movies?” she asked.

“Yes, about once a week,” I replied.

She suddenly was silent as the bus pulled up and the door opened.

I motioned for her to go before me, and she dropped her money in the terminal.

The bus driver said, “You’re thirty-five cents short. It’s one-fifty, not one-fifteen,” the driver said rudely. “You should check that before getting on.”

Before he had a chance to humiliate the girl any further, I interrupted, “That’s my fault. I gave her the wrong amount.”

I put the missing thirty-five cents in the terminal, and then paid for myself.

I walked down the aisle, but did not see her.

She was so small that, if she didn’t want to be seen, she easily could hide toward the back.

The bus was relatively empty and I took a seat in the middle of the bus next to the window.

I was not going to embarrass her any further.

I understood.

I had been humiliated and embarrassed far too many times not to sympathize with her situation.

I couldn’t help feeling that maybe if I had stopped off at a bar as I planned and had a few beers, I would have had some choice words for that bus driver.

The bus pulled out into the traffic, and suddenly the girl slipped into the seat next to me.

She whispered, “Thank you, I don’t know how I would of gotten back if I got kicked off the bus.”

“I’m sure you would have found a way, but you don’t have to worry about that now,” I reassured her.

“No, but it’s one of the reasons ‘they’ don’t want me to go out on my own.”

“Who are ‘they,’ if you don’t mind me asking?” She looked at me with her big brown eyes as though I should have known who ‘they’ were.

“I wish I could go to the movies all the time. I would love to see that movie.” She looked at the program in my hand as though it held some magical power.

“Do you ever look at movies on TV?” I asked.

“Sometimes, but not for very long, so I never know how they end,” she replied sadly.

“That would drive me crazy if I didn’t see the ending to a movie, especially if it was really good,” I added.

“Did that movie have a really good ending?” She asked as she motioned to the program in my hand.

“Yes, it did have a good ending,” I assured her.

“Did he confess to the priest?” The billboard had a picture of Robert DeNiro dressed as a priest. Robert Duvall had played his brother, a detective.

She had studied the program so long at the bus stop that her question was not at all shocking to me.

“What do you think?” I asked.

“I think he confessed to the priest. Did he?” she asked quietly.

“Yes,” I replied, even though that was not how the movie ended.

“Great! Now if it comes on TV, I will know the ending and won’t feel so bad about having to leave in the middle,” she smiled.

It was a beautiful smile. The dimples in her cheeks made her look even more childlike, lovely and innocent, like a little girl picking flowers in a field bathed in sunshine.


The bus came to her stop and she jumped up and I also got up and handed her the program. “Here. Why don’t you keep it,” I said as I gave her the booklet.

“Really! It’s the best gift ever!” she exclaimed.

She hugged me for a moment, and then ran down the stairs and out the door of the bus.

I watched as she crossed the street.

As she got to the other side, she turned, smiled, and waved to me.

I waved back, and watched as she walked through the gates of The Bronx Psychiatric Center.

I suddenly realized who “they” were that wouldn’t let her go to the movies.

“They” were the voices battling for control over her very being.

The labels and stereotypes cruelly impregnated in her mind…that stopped her from being the whole person she deserved to be…that all of us deserve to be.

I had seen it and studied it as a Psychology major during the first few years I was at Stony Brook University. As painful as it was, I had volunteered twice a week to visit the patients in a mental asylum.

I got off at the next stop and I was so tempted to run back to the psychiatric hospital and save that young girl, but it was too late. It always seemed to be too late.

I thought about her suffering as I walked through the beautiful neighborhood of Morris Park toward my parents’ home.

The streets were still alive with the sound of children playing, while their parents and grandparents conversed, siting on the stoops of their homes.

It was a scene with which I was very familiar from the time I was a small child living in my grandmother’s house.

I walked up a street with a steep incline, and as I got near the top, the sounds of the neighborhood suddenly went silent.

The streetlights dimmed, and as I started walking downhill, the world around me went black, and threatening voices started fighting for control of my being.

“They” who would not allow that young girl to go to the movies were now trying to get control over me.

But I was an old hand at this battle, and I knew their tricks. I would not let “them” win.

I fought back, and before long, the streetlights glowed brightly once again.

The sound of laughing children and chattering adults returned and church bells rang out to celebrate my victory.

Iris out. The End.





If one is lucky enough to look at a Leonardo da Vinci painting for a long time or over an extended period of years, one is struck by how alive everything in his paintings is, from the landscapes, buildings, plant life, individuals, animals and sometimes even corpses. He mastered the art of motion in his works, something no artist previously had ever done, and in my opinion, which no artist has been able to master in the same way.

Mr. da Vinci was an astute observer of nature, an artist and scientist who did numerous autopsies on human beings, animals, and plant life. The universe was an ever-expanding and living creation, not a static invention. In each of his works, the smallest details such as a tree branch, a small stream passing over rocks, or a dog in the background, all seemed to be in motion. Even if the dog simply was lying down at his master’s feet, the observer could see the dog’s muscles moving with each breath that the animal took.

It was roughly five years ago that my wife and I moved to a small, picturesque town in Kentucky. After living nearly half-a-century in New York City and Los Angeles, one could say that it was quite a change.


The homes, unlike the homes in those cosmopolitan landmarks, are quite a distance from each other with large front and back yards (in many cases the size of football fields). Plant life is plentiful. Animal life is varied and bountiful. And yes, at that perfect time of the morning, the dew on the grass truly makes it appear blue.


To say the weather is erratic is the kindest of compliments, but the metrological randomness is offset by the never-ending kindness of the warm and friendly people who live here.

For probably the first time in my life, I can play music as loudly as I want without disturbing any neighbors.

The town is quite hilly and for a runner, like I used to be once upon a time, it is challenging, very challenging. It would be the perfect place to train for a marathon.

The one constant in this lovely little town, where the weather is erratic and plant life plentiful, is the ever-watchful gaze of a beagle named Louie.


For the record, I have an affinity for beagles, since one of my favorite literary characters is a beagle, Snoopy aka Joe Cool, in the Peanuts cartoons and movies.

Louie, playfully nicknamed the ‘council dog’ by my wife and I, has wandered the streets of our community since the day we arrived. If the legend is to believed, Louie may have patrolled his domain many years before we were ever born.

Louie would stop at a house…or two…or three…to receive treats from generous neighbors and continue on his way until he came to a rest at his favorite buddy’s house, Bruce.

Bruce and his wife live directly across from us. Originally, born and raised in the backcountry of Kentucky, Bruce and his wife lived over thirty years in the city of Chicago before moving back to his native Kentucky.

Bruce is one of those Kentuckians I have described as a Teddy Roosevelt Democrat. He is on the move, doing chores and work around his house and church from the moment he rises in the morning until two hours after he has gone to sleep.

Louie, always vigilant and protective of his friend, always could be seen by Bruce’s side supervising nearly every move, occasionally taking a break to eat, stroll the neighborhood, and take a well-deserved nap in the sun on Bruce’s front lawn.

Rumor has it that despite Louie’s ample size (occasionally being mistaken for a basset hound), Bruce would load Louie into a wheelbarrow for a stroll around the yard.

The wheelbarrow incident remains unconfirmed, but there are several eyewitness reports of Louie’s dad driving the LFD (low-flying dog) to Bruce’s before heading out to work. Loading Louie into and out of the truck took a bit of work, but nothing was too good for the council dog.

I am told that supervising, as my two cats, Bogey and Bette, are quick to remind me, is quite a stressful job.

Louie and I bonded one cold and snowy night when, like an idiot, I decided to go for a run.

After sliding one too many times along the slick streets in my summertime shorts, I gave up and decided to walk back home.

Turning into my driveway, I noticed Louie walking beside me. Apparently, he was on his last tour of duty that night before going back home to his father, Rackle, and his mom.

He studied me carefully, with those big brown puppy eyes, and I couldn’t help knowing he was thinking, “My God, I have met some stupid humans but this one takes the cake.”



I opened the garage door and Louie followed me in. I could hear him thinking, “Might as well check this out. This level of stupid deserves a closer look.”

I walked to the back of my very large garage and opened a refrigerator and took out an ice-cold beer (After all, what goes better after a run on a cold, snowy night than an ice-cold Budweiser).

I also took out a packet of hot dogs and a leftover steak for Louie. It seemed appropriate, as it was not very often that I got a visit from such a distinguished guest.


We walked back to the front of the garage and looked out at the falling snow. Louie ate the steak and hot dog after hot dog while I drank my beer. I told him the story of my life. He was unimpressed to say the least.

After one last stroll around the garage, he bade me farewell as I watched him walk back to his home, his tail flapping in the wind as it swatted off snowflake after snowflake.

Louie and I became fast friends and, I have to admit, I felt honored. As time went on and the weather got nicer, he would be the first one to greet me when I went out for my early morning run, just as the sun was coming up over our lovely community.

After I was finished, he would follow me into the garage where I graciously would offer him breakfast.

Naturally, he would never refuse. It would be insulting, and being a southern gentleman, he was not one to insult.

On one particularly hot summer day, I watched as two other neighborhood dogs got into a heated argument.

Barking and roaring at each other, I was quite certain it would soon turn into an all out paw-on-paw brawl.

Suddenly I noticed Louie walking toward them, cool as a cucumber. I stood to intervene, but there was no need.

It suddenly got very quiet as Louie walked between the two warriors, flapping an ear at one, and then at the other.

Just like that, the combatants walked off in different directions and Louie continued on his way to Bruce’s house.

It was a moment unlike any other moment. In fact, it was a Fonzarelli-type moment.

For those unfamiliar with the term Fonzarelli, or “The Fonz,” please get your heads out of Facebook and go turn on the classic TV show “Happy Days” and learn something useful.

During the last five years, I have looked out my dining room window and watched Bruce and Louie hang out, play, work, and supervise.

In fact, there have been very few days in which I have not seen them together at least once.

The scene always has brought a smile to my face. In the back of my head I hear Jimmy Durante singing, “Smile, what’s the use of crying. Smile even though your heart is aching. Smile through your fear and sorrows and maybe tomorrow you will see the sun come shining through for you.”

Recently, I have not seen Louie across at Bruce’s. At first I thought he went on vacation with his parents.

But as time went on and I didn’t see him, I suspected the worst.

It turned out to be just that…the worst. Our treasured Louie had passed away at the home of his beloved parents.

Today, as I look across at the landscape of our community, I need to close my eyes and like a da Vinci painting, visualize the wagging tail of a beagle surveying and patrolling the area.

Louie leaves behind a mother and father, Bruce and his wife, and a grateful community.

His puppy dog eyes, his sweet demeanor and his protectiveness of all of us will never be forgotten. His spirit lives on in every mind, every heart, every plant, and every leaf that blows in the wind.

Yes, the universe is ever expanding and always in motion, and so is Louie. We grieve his loss. We rejoice our time with him. We cherish the memories and hold them tightly.

Our lives are better for his friendship, and we know that he still strolls up and down our street to protect and comfort us, even though we cannot always see him…except on those mornings, at that perfect time of the morning, when the dew on the grass truly makes it appear blue. There will be a glimpse of Louie, tail wagging, to smile “good morning.”



Much love,

Joseph and Melissa





Back in the day when I was a student in the theater department at Stony Brook University, Professor Louis Peterson, an award-winning playwright, told us a story about a middle-aged man who worked in the kitchen at the restaurant where Peterson was working as a waiter while struggling desperately to make it as a playwright.

Peterson’s co-worker was a middle-aged, mentally-challenged gentleman.  He was a hard worker who frequently was ridiculed by fellow employees and even some customers. Despite the circumstances, the gentleman kept his head down, plowed forward and did a wonderful job.

Decades after leaving the restaurant business, Professor Peterson, who already had become a well-known playwright and an accomplished screenwriter who worked with such notables as Federico Fellini, wrote a play about the middle-aged gentleman from the restaurant.

The play, starring Julie Harris, became a big hit and Professor Peterson won many awards.

In short, the point the professor was trying to get across was that you never know where or who will provide you with the inspiration for a story, and that you shouldn’t discount any of your experiences.

Peterson never expected to write anything about the mentally-challenged man, but nearly a quarter of a century later he did…and it paid off big.

The theme of his story was nothing new.  Most writers and artists probably have similar stories…even though I doubt many have been as fortunate as Peterson.

What got me, and remains with me after nearly forty years, is the indifferent, dispassionate tone Peterson used in describing the mentally-challenged character while telling the story.

It was as though he were speaking about a lab rat who had provided him with vital information that he turned into pure magic.

I seriously doubt that is what he truly felt, because if it were, the play never would have been such a critical and commercial success.

Still, I have never been able to erase that impression.

I was not raised to be indifferent, or rude, or to talk down to anybody.

*“And lead me into the night/Please drive away the light

‘Cause I’ve been blinded by glitter and gold/My eyes need to rest from this light

And sleep well at night”

Unless one has worked in a restaurant for a while, one never could know how a restaurant operates, especially a successful one like the Palm Restaurant in West Hollywood.

After working for over twenty-five years at The Palm as a busboy, a waiter, an occasional manager, an off-and-on bartender, with the kitchen staff, doing inventory and payroll, I still cannot say with certainty that I knew all there was to know.

What I can say with certainty is that the most important part…the heart of the operation…is the kitchen.

The preparatory work before lunch, which begins as early as six in the morning, is enough to knock the toughest individuals off-balance and reeling for days.

After five-and-half-hours of ‘prepping,’ you get to work lunch… cook, make salads, and clean dishes at an ungodly pace for three hours.

The Palm was lucky because our kitchen crew, for dinner and lunch, had been together for many years. They worked like a well-oiled machine, and I often thought of them as the very best pit crew working at the Indy 500.

Whereas they were all wonderful, it was Antonio to whom everyone turned when things went awry, like a waiter putting in a wrong order or forgetting to put in a complete order.

“I traveled east and I traveled west/And I found a boy with a heart on his chest

I ran aground my ship left to rust/Yes, I found a guide in the city of lust”

Antonio was medium height, with broad shoulders, and a full set of thick black hair.

He was a good-looking man who always seemed to greet you with a smile…a smile that put you at ease, regardless of the circumstances.

He was a Mexican immigrant who eventually became a United States citizen under President Ronald Reagan’s 1986 immigration bill offering legalization for undocumented workers.

Antonio was proud of his children and expected them to succeed and hoped they would never have to work in the restaurant business.

My friend, Ron, and I went to watch Antonio’s sons play baseball and, like any proud father, he cheered enthusiastically when they got a hit or made a great play on the field.

And if they didn’t do so well, he always greeted them with that reassuring smile.

Antonio owned a home in the San Fernando Valley, not far from where I lived. He drove an old truck that looked very out of place in the parking lot of the restaurant next to the army of Mercedes, Porches, Ferraris, and BMWs parked there.

His life wasn’t defined by luxury, but by old-fashioned values.

I often saw Antonio with his children in a beautiful park not far from where we lived. It often brought back memories of my father taking my brothers and me to a park in the Bronx to play on the swings and the monkey bars.

*“To lead me into the night/Oh, please drive away the light

Although my mother will never understand/I walk with him away from the light

And into the night”

Antonio worked the “line” next to our sous chef (our executive chef) and our broiler man.

He was also our Expeditor, the person who puts the orders in their proper place as they came through the computers. He worked the black top, flipping and cooking thinly cut steaks, fish, and poultry.  He made sure that every dish that went out was garnished properly so it looked as great as it was going to taste.

On the average, Antonio and our broiler man lost between three and five pounds during each lunch shift.

Antonio also handled sauté when our executive chef was busy doing something else. He was so good at sauté that the company sent him to culinary school.  I learned more about cooking from him than any other person.

When our executive chef went to our downtown restaurant, Antonio finally was promoted to executive chef.

The entire waitstaff and the kitchen crew were overjoyed.

Antonio did not have an ego, and he wasn’t the type who would hold up an order because he had a problem with one of the waiters.

He didn’t let such petty nonsense interfere with the job at hand.

With the promotion came added responsibilities, but no one had any doubt he could handle the new demands.

After all, he had been doing everything the executive chef had been doing for years, but the hours were much longer.

Not only was he was working lunch, but also working dinner. In short, he was working double shifts five days a week, and occasionally six.

Sometimes, at the end of the night, I would talk to him when things calmed down.

He would tell me that the long hours were causing problems at home.  Then, he would smile and everything seemed as though it would be alright.

About that same time, our once top-notched restaurant went into a downward spiral.

The “experts” back east just wouldn’t leave our restaurant alone.

Even though our location always had been the biggest moneymaker for the company, an outpost…a speakeasy with a distinctive style… they just couldn’t keep their hands off what had worked for two-and-a-half decades.

Naturally, their ideas failed miserably, and when they couldn’t face up to their blunders, they started blaming the management team and Antonio, our incredible executive chef.

On a lazy Sunday afternoon, Antonio arrived at the restaurant before anyone else, even though we were not open for lunch on Sundays.

This man who had worked so hard, loved his family so much and was so good to his co-workers, sat by his locker, took out a gun, and shot himself in the head.

According to the coroner, Antonio died instantly.

Felipe, a co-worker and a close friend for over twenty-five years discovered his body.

That night, the restaurant closed as a parade of police cars, fire trucks and an ambulance stayed parked in the front and back of the restaurant.

Antonio’s body was carried out the back door and placed in the ambulance.

After each shift, it was through that same back door that Antonio always exited the restaurant.

The entire staff gathered at the restaurant that night.

As we sat around the bar drinking and commiserating, many employees raised the notion that the last person one would expect to kill himself was Antonio.

I couldn’t help feeling, “Isn’t that always the case?”

“Oh you, you, you, it’s got to be you/Oh you, oh you, it’s got to be you

True, true, it’s true it’s got to be you/Oh you, oh you, it’s got to be you

To lead me into the night”

The viewing was held on the following Saturday.

The coffin was closed, but the funeral director, at the urging of family and friends, opened the casket for a few minutes.

Felipe cupped his hands around the face of our friend and wept uncontrollably.

I looked down at Antonio’s face, and I could not help but see a faint smile on the face of this wonderful human being.

“Well I went too far and I came too close/I drove away the first one and now he’s the coast

And I went to drift on a boat made of sand/It was leaking like a sieve but I made it to land”

A few weeks later, a close friend of mine told me that one morning, he went outside to go on his daily run before work.

My friend suddenly was stricken by an unexplained, paralyzing sense of depression.

He cancelled his run and simply figured it would pass, but after 12 years, it was still present as strong as ever.

He had seen numerous doctors who prescribed drug after drug, but none had worked.

My friend continued to work during this entire time.

Ironically, he had an ever-increasing number of call parties at the restaurant…people who refused to sit with anyone but him.

No one suspected the agony he was living with…struggling with…every day.

My friend told me he prayed to God to give him just one more normal year, and after that, he would gladly follow Him into the night.

I listened intently and made a constant effort to touch base with my friend.

I made my friend promise that he wouldn’t do anything drastic without telling me first.

That night, I looked in the mirror and saw the face of my friend looking back at me…the scared, confused, angry, sad face was my own.

Shortly before my breakdown and departure from the Palm Restaurant, I wrote a tribute to Antonio and posted it outside the office.

It made me feel good when my friends at the restaurant informed me that my post was still up there some five years after I left.

And I remembered Antonio’s smile.

“It leads me into the night/He drives away in the light

He makes the darkness seem bright/And walks with me into the night

Away from the light”

*Lyrics from “Lead me into the Night,” sung by the Cardigans (written by Peter Anders Sevensson and Nina Persson)