Monthly Cultural Corner - April 2023

March 31, 2023

Cultural Spotlight: Michael Morellino

My name is Mike Morellino, and I am the Regional Director for the Commerce Clinic, and I just celebrated my 15 year anniversary with Penny Lane! I am half Italian and half of a mix of Dutch, French and English. I identify with my Italian heritage the most as that was most dominate in my home growing up. My father was proud of his Italian heritage and due to him being more outgoing than my mom, we had many Italian friends. Plus, we spent much more time with my father’s relatives than with my mother’s relatives. My father’s father grew his own grapes and made homemade wine! I grew up on Long Island which is a small island at the base of New York state. Most people associate New York with New York City, which is only a tiny portion of the state of New York. Most of New York (about 95 percent) is north of the city and referred to “Upstate New York”.

My hometown of Patchogue Long Island is in the middle of the island and on the south shore. It was a great place to grow up as we had all the modern conveniences of a medium sized city, yet it was rural enough to still have some undeveloped, wild places close by. At the end of my street was a field where my friends and I would pick wild blueberries and wild raspberries. They were small but very sweet! In the empty lot behind my house grew “wild” grapes, no doubt from plants that someone planted many years before. Neighbors had mulberry trees which gave us a wonderful treat of mulberries every Summer. Nature and the outdoors were my place of retreat when things at home were in chaos.

Long Island is surrounded by water which provided both recreation and a food source for many of the local people. As a young child I would go with my father to the golf course where he played. After walking with him for a few holes I quickly became bored and would go off by myself and look for lost golf balls. As I got a little older, I would go to the water called the Great South Bay and play there. Soon after I started bringing my fishing, clamming, and crabbing gear and not long after that my father was dropping me off directly at the water before he went to play golf and would pick me up 6 hours later when he was done. A large stream flowed throughout the golf course and flowed into the bay. I could catch freshwater fish, saltwater fish, blue claw crabs and dig clams all within walking distance. I used to enjoy watching my father eating the crabs and clams but never ate them myself. I used to catch white perch, snapper fish and blow fish that my mom would prepare for us to eat.

Of course, I love Italian food and my father required pasta every Sunday for dinner. My mother would always make the sauce fresh each Sunday and cook it for hours until the whole house smelled of garlic and onion, quite an amazing smell. My father also wanted espresso at the end of every Sunday pasta meal, and I use to beg them to drink it. After a few years of me asking to have some espresso on Sunday, they finally caved in to my requests. From that point forward I joined them for a cup of espresso at the end of every Sunday meal. It’s probably why I am so short; the espresso probably stunted my growth! About once per month we would go to my grandmother’s (my father’s mother) house for pasta and her house also smelled of garlic and onion. This smell still reminds me of home and our time at my grandmother’s house. My father spoke to his mother in Italian, but my father did not want his children to learn the Italian language. He said, “We live in America, and you will speak English not Italian.” Not sure why he was so adamant about this, but I really wish I would have learned to speak Italian. Sadly, I have never visited Italy, but it is on my list and I will visit soon. And I will learn Italian before I go.

My father was very racially prejudice to anyone not Italian which is strange that he married my mother who is not Italian. My father’s mother never really accepted my mother into the family, I think primarily because she was not Italian. I never really understood this dynamic as a child. When I got a little older, I was clear that this was not how I wanted think, believe, or live my life. I have friends from many diverse backgrounds and my best friend is gay. It was important that the agency I worked for was clear with its message and practice of inclusivity. I really appreciate Penny Lane’s heart centered culture and the importance we place on inclusivity to all people regardless of their background or choices.

As a child, I was exposed to music of the 60s, primarily from my sister who really identified with the hippie movement. This was my first introduction to the Beatles, who I still like to this day. Serendipitously Penny Lane is named after one of the Beatles songs. My musical interests vary greatly from classic rock, folk rock, classical to New Age. I did a lot of disco dancing in my time so 80s and 90s disco and dance music is always fun to hear.

For many years I have been interested in Buddhism and other spiritual philosophies. This has taken on a more important role in my life in recent years and I have gone on a few retreats with Buddhist and spiritual teachers I like. They have all been great experiences. I have been listening to different non-duality teachers lately and I have really been enjoying their talks. Health, nutrition, and wellness are also very important to me and ways to best balance the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of life has been a focus of mine for many years as well. Learning and practicing how to cultivate a peaceful and quiet mind has really helped me, especially recently considering the many crazy things going on locally and worldwide.

-Mike Morellino, Penny Lane Centers

Check out some photos of my family, my siblings, and more below!