December 21, 2016 2016, christmas, diario/journal

flying to winterchristmas 2016 – 1
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This is the first time in almost 20 years that I flew up to Sault Ste Marie at Christmas. The thought of driving through the unpredictable, miserable snow-belt that is Grayling/Gaylord was too scary.

evergreen And I followed the old protocol from 20 years ago and booked through Air Canada. When I made the reservations back in June, the lay-overs in Toronto were not bad, but by the end of October, Air Canada had made so many changes to my itinerary, that today I had a 5-hour lay-over and next week, when I go home, I’ll have a 6-hour lay-over. Today, I had breakfast with my cousin Joe and next week I’ll go visit Frank-and-Norma.

The other inconvenience was the walk from the gate to customs. It took me 30 minutes and there were no interruptions or delays, just miles of glass-walled corridors. (I can’t think of any other airport that I’ve been in where I’ve walked that far from where we deplaned to where I could exit the building.)

What I’ll do in the future is fly Air Canada into Toronto, because they have an early morning flight and then fly Porter between Toronto and Sault Ste Marie. There’s a direct shuttle between Pearson Airport and Union Station downtown. And from there, I can then walk to City Airport to get on a Porter flight to the Sault.

The surprise is all the snow. Everything in Toronto is covered in a thin layer of white. Up here, the snow is easily 6-inches deep; the roads are covered with packed-snow; and the snow-banks are over my head.


December 22, 2016 2016, christmas, diario/journal

an older timechristmas 2016 – 2
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Woke up to a cliché winter-wonderland. Last night there had been a soft, light snowfall and everything was covered in fluffy, super-white snow. And with winter-wonderlands come decent temperatures or at least mercury readings that make walking outside OK.

barnRose, Derrick and I went out for coffee to a chorus from Mr. Ciccio Zinga – Oh my god, going out to buy coffee, when you can make a perfectly good cup at home. This was followed by asking Rose where Derrick was and when she told him that he was waiting in the car on the street, Mr. Ciccio went off on his latest rant – Can you believe that it’s 9:00 and my driveway is still unplowed? (This is a man who for years had his driveway cleaned and swept free of snow by 7:00 am.) My driveway … my driveway unplowed. Son-of-a-bitch! I gotta call that son-of-a-bitch, as soon as your aunt gets up, I call that son-of-a-bitch and cuss him out. It was great fun repeating the conversation to Derrick. This led to Rose describing her dad’s obsession with a clear-of-snow driveway.

My dad uses a Red Cross service that helps needy families. (The Red Cross co-ordinates a snow-removal service that hires people, at a certain income level, to clear home-owners driveways.)

After coffee, I went to visit my aunt-and-uncle and then opted to walk back to my parents’. The sidewalk-plow had just gone down the street where my aunt-and-uncle live, so I followed it walking the the tunnel that it had cleared between the snowbanks and what used to be the front-lawns. Winter really is the main experience this far north. And on days like today, it’s the landscape is exceptional. Snow decorates the aging housing; it distracts from the fading, pealing paint; it blankets sagging roofs; it covers weed infested lawns and cracked sidewalks.

The red barn in the image is on a side-street close to my aunt-and-uncle’s. In spring and summer it sits as a reminder of an older time when the area was all farms. In spring and summer is goes un-noticed, but in winter its red paint shines in contrast to the white, white snow.


December 23, 2016 2016, christmas, diario/journal

the merrifield rink on henriettachristmas 2016 – 3
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It used to be that every K-8 school made an outdoor ice-rink during the winter months and recess time was spent playing hockey with-your boots on or shoveling the snow off the ice. There were also city-rinks that were open week-days well into the night and all weekend. These city-rinks had hockey leagues, lessons, open skating and even couples-night. The attraction was the hours, the on-site attendant and the warming shacks. We would skate until our toes frozen and then we would run into the shack and try and get warm. The shack was a room with wooden benches around the perimeter and an oil heating unit in the middle. (I can still remember the distinct smell associated with oil burning furnaces and warming stoves.)

The city-rink across from my aunt-and-uncles on Henrietta Street, is named after William Merrifield a World War I Canadian soldier who was awarded both the Victoria Cross and the Military Medal for gallantry during the mud and carnage at the Battle of Passchendaele, Belgium. Following the Great War, Merrifield settled in the Sault and worked at the Algoma Central Railroad. He died in August 1943 and was buried in West Korah Cemetery.

I had no idea Merrifield was buried in West Korah Cemetery. Connie took me to the cemetery, because many members of Ron’s family are buried here. West Korah Cemetery was used by the “English” families of the west-end. All these years, I had no idea who Merrifield was or his connection to Sault Ste Marie. I just knew it was one of the many “English” names tagged on public schools and spaces throughout town.

The Merrifield rink is very popular and ended up adding a second, no-boards rink for kids. (I have this memory of Dave taking little Seane out to the Merrifield rink to try out her new skates and she crying and absolutely refusing to move. Seane won the argument and never did get to skate.) The above image shows mainly the no-boards, kids rink.


December 24, 2016 2016, christmas, diario/journal

a glooming peacechristmas 2016 – 4
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Last night it started to rain and by this morning the snow was wet and the snowbanks down to under 5-feet. Everything is gun-barrel-grey. Seane, Lilly and I went walking, but it was like walking through cold dense fog; a chill left me shivering; a chill that you can only experience in a northern climate in melting snows.
Seane-Lilly2There was a similar thaw last year. Town was clear of snow, but the area around Trout Lake, where my cousin’s son lives and where we were headed, was a winter micro-climate. The ground, the granite slabs, the boulders were covered in thick layers of wet snow. And the evergreens looked like tall pregnant women; their branches round with dripping white mounds. It was disconcerting driving the rut-filled, unpaved road that circled the lake, but there was no other option for getting to Dominic’s son’s house.

On our walk, two guys on bicycles with hoodies and cigarettes dangling from their lips and looking like meth-addicts said hello and merry christmas. (Yeah, only someone high as a kite could be merry in this morning gloom.) My comment to Seane was that there are some scuzzy people in this end of town.

The image is Seane and Lilly and my dad at the mailbox getting the morning mail. And I brightened the image as much as I could and it’s still grey. The sun and winter-wonderland of a couple days ago are gone. Also, I’ve almost completed the slide-show change from summer to winter. The third image was also from our morning walk and the tree is full of frozen apples that for some reason have not fallen to the ground.


December 24, 2016 2016, christmas, diario/journal

vigilia di natale – christmas evechristmas 2016 – 5
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eve2Christmas Eve is always at my aunt-and-uncle’s. It’s my favorite of the two meals – 24th and 25th – because it’s the most traditional. It’s a fast meal which in old Catholicism meant no meat. The pasta was seasoned with olive oil, garlic and sardines. The fish was always baccalà – cod – in a variety of guises – breaded and fried, un-breaded and fried, baked, in a red-sauce, in olive oil and onions. The vegetables were rapini, and broccoli. There was no leavened bread instead we ate cullurielli, a deep-fried bread dough cooked plain or filled with anchovies.
Most years it’s my aunt-and-uncle, my parents, me, Rose-and-Derrick and my uncle’s 95-year old aunt Teresina. This year Dave, Isabel, Seane and Christian joined us. And like all Italians in Sault Ste Marie, we eat in the basement kitchen. Back in Aprigliano, the meal was very simple, because everyone went out to the town square for the Christmas bonfire. In northern Ontario, the celebrations stay indoors and therefore the meal and its presentation have become more important, more sumptuous, more Canadian.
In the Canadian version, the white anchovy pasta is supplemented with spaghetti in a red calamari sauce; the rapini is displaced by Brussels-sprouts; and the salted baccalà is balanced with shrimp, sea-perch or a fresh fish. The Christmas Eve meal was both a tribute and a celebration of la cucina povera. The meal reflected the poverty into which the Christ child was born. But now, the Italian immigrants celebrate Christmas, by demonstrating the bounty they found in the new world.
There are really two parts to every Christmas meal – the real food and everything after the real food is eaten. And the second set of offerings are just as important as the traditional dishes. Once the pasta, vegetable, salad and fish dishes were collected and put on the counter, my uncle began bringing out the second group of foods. There were fichi d’india – prickly pears, cherries, Abate pears, finocchio – fennel, chestnuts, dried figs, mandarins and tangerines.
The last part of the meal is espresso, the Calabrese Christmas sweets – turdilli, scalille, pitta impigliata – and various liqueurs. (These would normally be served in the upstairs/formal kitchen.) Keeping with the move to modernity, Rose brought up a wonderful berry cheesecake. My uncle brought out two bottles of Anice – one from Cosenza and one from Sardegna. The one from Sardegna, has a silhouette of Queen Ann’s Lace on its label and it tasted soft and less lickerishy. The one from Cosenza is stronger and wonderfully flavored with anice and pear.

Images top to bottom – my uncle and aunt getting the two spaghetti ready   the dining table in the downstairs kitchen
                   the vegetable – Brussels-sprouts, broccoli, and salad   Seane, Dave and my dad   my dad and Christian


December 25, 2016 2016, christmas, diario/journal

christmas meal – onechristmas 2016 – 6
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Mr. Zinga has been up since 5:00 cooking up a storm. He has all the vegetables prepped, he has cut up all the fruits for after the meal and he has added his little touches to the turkey. He bought a pre-stuffed bird and it was difficult getting him to understand that he was not to defrost it and that it needed to go into the over frozen. (Apparently, the last stuffed turkey he bought, he decided that it needed to be defrosted and they ended up having to throw it all away or risk salmonella poisoning.)
stoveAnd even after I got the turkey ready, because I stepped away for 5 minutes and wasn’t there to monitor, he decided to cook it without a cover, to get it browned and to add white wine to give the drippings more flavor. IT’S FROZEN!!! browning and drippings are hours away. Oh, did I mention that my dad is 91.

Don’t let me forget that in addition to turkey, stuffing, cranberry, gravy, Brussels-sprouts, green-beans, broccoli and salad there will be chicken broth with tiny meatballs and my mother’s lasagna. And let’s not forget both home-made bread and cullurielli both plain and with anchovies. I keep forgetting to mention the home-made wine, the beer and of course pop for all the non-wine/non-beer drinkers.

The other task that sets off Mr. Zinga’s OCD is the setting up of the tables and chairs for the 20 people who will be here for dinner. He’s already started in on my bringing all the tables in from the garage. (Last Christmas, I had to get Derrick to show up here at 9:00 to help me with the tables, because my dad wouldn’t stop fussing. 9:00 am!!! even though dinner was set for 5:30.) So when he started in this morning, I told him Christian would help me and that put an end to his fussing, because anything his grandson is involved in is automatically OK. Wait till he hears we’re going for a walk after lunch and that we’ll do the tables when we get back. (Rose continually accuses me of being evil. Maybe there’s something to it. But it’s definitely fun prodding Mr. Zinga’s OCD.)

He is now all about lunch. I wish I had a tape-recorder to capture his fussing at my mother as they get lunch ready.


December 25, 2016 2016, christmas, diario/journal

 christmas dinnerchristmas 2016 – 7
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christmas2It was a tradition to go driving through the west-end to see the various Christmas light displays. The area west of Goulais Avenue was infamous for over-the-top illuminations. Guess that tradition made more sense when we were younger, less jaded and had a more naive world-view. In the age of the crazy-man, naiveté is a dangerous characteristic. So I shot the house across the street. When I lived here, the Greniers, a French-Canadian family, lived in the small house. My parents referred to them as i francesi, because the family still spoke French.

By early afternoon, Mr. Zinga had exhausted himself and sat back in his chair commenting. Connie, the kids and I announced that we were going for a walk; Dave retreated upstairs to ESPN; and Mafalda and Isabel set about getting the actual meal assembled. Normally, I work with my mom at getting the vegetables, the soup, the lasagna and the turkey sides ready, but it was nice to leave all that in Isabel’s capable hands. The two of them worked wonderfully together and we even got some modified dishes – baked mashed potatoes, salad with black olives.
After our walk, Seane and I got the tables ready. Mr. Zinga couldn’t control himself and started to give us orders. I just looked at him and started to laugh especially when he questioned why we left a space in front of the fireplace. Seane and I had great fun grimacing about fly body-parts in the bowls, where to put the napkin, the knife, the fork. When Isabel suggested putting the soup-spook above the plate, we roared. I told her that we weren’t doing that, because A: the group wouldn’t find it and B: after finding it, they would hound her with their comments.

The Hub trail is one of the many wilderness trails in the west-end. It’s a 10 minute drive from my parents. The trail was again a reminder of that nouveau term – micro-climate. There was no evidence of melting or ice-covered snow anywhere. Strange given that where my parents are, everything was covered in a sheet of ice because of the rain the previous day. (After dinner, Alyssa and Seane went on about liking getting mentioned or having their pics on the blog. Who knew my jaded niece and my still unjaded cousin cared.)

The soup was done with store-bought capelleti instead of the small home-made meatballs – we complained; the lasagna hadn’t settled, it was wet – we complained; Daniel had a pimple – we complained; Christian filled up on shrimp – we complained; Seane dumped her boyfriend – we complained; Alyssa wants to come to Kaua’i – we cheered. After dinner, my mother complained about pics-on-phones, so she pulled out the old albums and we had a great time looking at the old pictures. “Yes, I was a monk. I used to be holy.” You can just image the comments that followed that statement.

Images top to bottom – the blue house across the street,   Mafalda and Isabel preparing Christmas dinner,   the table in the downstairs kitchen set for 20,   Seane on our Christmas day walk,   Connie, Seane, Christian on the bridge over the hollow


December 27, 2016 2016, christmas, diario/journal

finding life in old structureschristmas 2016 – 8
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Each time I visit, I’ve had a chance to go see the renovations Kevin and his dad have done on the old Lutheran church on Wellington. They are close to finishing and to putting the rental units on the market. Kevin said that the local media did a great piece on the renovation and that they had many inquiries. Old Steelton Church Born Again. His hope is that he will have all 5 units rented within the month.
church-windowAll the windows had a second plastic window in front of them; this was to both protect the old glass and to keep the winter out. The tall stained-glass at the entrance was hidden behind an opaque plastic sheath. Kevin said that once they removed the yellowed plastic the colors and the incoming light were amazing. For the side and basement windows, Kevin used a craftsman style replacement glass unit; and a great tradesman, who is working with them, was able to fashion the interior window framing so to maintain the arch in the windows at the front of the church.

Watching Kevin’s renovations and earlier in the week talking to Albert Tucci at the re-purposed St. Mary’s High School there is a real sense that the town is investing in the old Gore Street/Wellington Street area. Kevin’s renovation is at the west-end of the neighborhood and the re-purposed St. Mary’s is at the east-end of the neighborhood. Because the two commercial street – Gore and Wellington – are surrounded by solid, brick housing that can be renovated, this town supported revitalization comes with a residential component. The houses in the area date back to the 1940s.

So much of the newer housing in town is what I call throw-away suburban-track. These are houses that the extreme weather ages in 5 years; these are houses with a short life expectancy. They are built as temporaries, encouraging their occupants to move to a new house as soon as possible. But the houses around the Gore Street/Wellington Street corridor have solid bones. The old Lutheran church has basement walls 5-feet thick – solid, poured cement. And it’s good to see the next generation reclaiming, renovating and re-purposing the old structures that built the steel town that is Sault Ste Marie.

When I lived here some 50-years ago, the east-end was the promised land. We in the west-end lived too close to the mill; we in the west-end had few amenities; we in the west-end were Polish, German, Italian and French; we in the west-end were too Catholic. The real, true white-skinned Canadians lived in the east-end surrounded by their Anglican churches and manicured parks. And we west-enders were supposed to grow up, marry an east-ender – a non-immigrant – and then move away from the dreaded west-end. But the winds have shifted; they now blow west.


December 28, 2016 2016, christmas, diario/journal

flight home and a 6 hours lay-overchristmas 2016 – 9
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Rose and Derrick took me to the airport for a 10:15 flight. The line to the counter was through the entire lobby and it took 45 minutes to get to the attendant. Many of the people in line had shown up hoping to get on stand-by, but the flight was sold out. When the airport is 20 minutes away, it’s OK if I have to drive back home. Also, many of the college kids were in line with their parents. The other surprise was that these same kids hadn’t checked-in online. Having checked-in the night before, it took me 5 minutes to get my bag tagged; and I headed off to security. (I even had a container of cullurielli cu sarde for Joe that his had made and because of all the chaos, no one said anything about the extra carry-on.)

And then the crazies . . .

The unprepared delayed boarding, but when we were all on-board, a woman in front of me picks up and heads out. (For a minute, I thought I must have been on the wrong plane, but then I remembered I was in Sault Ste Marie and there was only one Air Canada plane on the tarmac.) Once inside the terminal you could see her flaying and I’m assuming yelling. Immediately, a security group gathered around the crazy. Next, the baggage people started scrambling to retrieve the crazy’s luggage. Meanwhile the show went on in the terminal; too bad we had no sound. But soon the door closed; the plane was de-iced; and we headed to the run-way. Crazy, part one – done.

In Toronto, Joe picked me up and we headed off the Sherway Gardens Mall for lunch at Pusateri’s – a high-end Italian eatery. I had roasted turkey and rapini. Next we went for coffee; then made our way to Sacks; and finally to his house for a glass of wine. He got me back to the airport around 4:30 for a 6:30 flight. (I had no idea how long it was going to take me to get through security and customs, so it was OK to have the extra time.)

Air Canada has service to most US cities within an hour’s flying-time of Toronto. However, the gates for these routes are in the extremities of Terminal 1. (Last Wednesday, it took me 30 minutes to walk from the gate to customs on the arrivals’ level.) The gates are in a long corrugated metal structure and the waiting areas are in the hallway. And sitting there for an hour afforded an amazing people-watching experience. First of all, anyone who says Canadians are not as fat as Americans is delusional. I repeatedly kept thinking – how is that person gonna fit in an airplane seat? And then the kids. There was a mom with two kids; she spent her whole time reading off her iPhone while her two brats touched and played with anything they could reach. There was a second family, waiting to get on a Cleveland flight; they had three small kids who were so misbehaved that the dad gave one a spanking. And there was the odd couple going to LA via Kansas City; the young woman looked like the Goodyear blimp and the young man was skinny and very metro. And then to top it all off came the wheel-chair people; if you can’t walk on your own, what the hell are you doing traveling during Christmas?


December 30, 2016 2016, christmas, diario/journal

christmas 2016 – last entry
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thinking back

Image top – creek on the Hub Trail,   Images bottom (left-right) open flame at steel-mill,   window at repurposed church,   aunt’s basement kitchen,
  Lilly, Seane, Connie, Christian on Hub Trail