Experience and Family

Posted on May 12th, by admin in About the Author. 1 Comment

New Haven, Family, Travel, and Washington, DC


Proto: “I‘ve done a broad range of things, including painting with watercolors and value drawing, which I don’t do enough of, taking courses on film-making and acting, and ballroom dancing with my sister Diana when we were children. DianaNeilDanceNeil A respect for poise came out of the dancing, music used for a purpose, and the value of real experience early. I wanted to play Little League baseball. Third base. The ‘hot spot.’ And with it learning in terms of analogues, the player as model that I wanted to know and emulate but not as a substitute for doing it myself. For sensing in the moment the skill and feeling of the ‘great play;’ the ‘flubbed play;’ and the efforts of teammates striving collaboratively.”

Proto: “I had twenty-nine cousins within walking distance on my father’s side alone. Parental guidance everywhere. It was the Fair Haven area of New Haven. Ethnically diverse neighborhoods. Junior high school, high school, and college intensified the diversity, as did regular Saturday, day-long visits to my Aunt Rosie’s house to play pick-up basketball games with cousins and neighborhood kids. In my own family — I wrote about some of this in ‘The Crimson Horde” and in the ‘Author’ section of Sacco and Vanzetti — two compelling forces were evident: the sharing of memory and my mother’s encouragement to learn and not to be ordinary. It also was learning from the era lived by multiple mentors — parents, uncles, my older cousins, and brother, Richard, and making it my own. Generational obligation went with it.”

RichardNeilDianaProto: “I came to an appreciation of the value of moving sideways, of exploring the range of interests and skills inside of me. Being determined and persistent in that and not being linear. And integrating what I learned into what I knew. Not wanting later in life to wonder whether there were skills or talents I had or knowledge I could appreciate that hadn’t been explored or given enough play to see if joy or a form of excellence was attainable in doing and sharing.”

Soviet UnionProto: “I went to the Soviet Union in 1975, Moscow and Leningrad. It was late January. Snow on every train platform and river. To Czechoslovakia in 1978. Troops and burned out tanks in Prague. China in 1983, when forms of communism — farm communes, uniform clothing, large photographs of Mao and Cho En-Lai — were still evident. I’d studied Marxism in college and graduate school, the ‘Iron Curtain’ still had meaning, ‘loyalty’ to America was still defined in terms of anti-communism, the Vietnam War had been justified on global ideological grounds, the effects of Hitler’s invasion was talked about angrily by officials in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). I could continue serious dialogue about international affairs with my brother and mother and understand change as it was evolving. It wasn’t just travel, it was the purposefulness of the travel.”

Proto: “I’m taken by the courage and range of knowledge of the British explorers, Richard Francis Burton and Ernest Shackleton particularly. Burton plays into ‘The Photograph’ — his visit to America in 1860. It was part of the imperative for my interest in the Royal Geographical Society of London. I’m still learning about Alaska’s Bush Pilots, pre-GPS.”

Proto: “I love being an uncle and great uncle, grilled fish, and Sally’s Apizza.”

One thought on “Experience and Family

  1. The Neil Proto who ran Welling Hall at GWU in 1969-1970 ? I was going to be your man in South Carolina !
    Gene Green

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