January 16, 2016 diario/journal, salami

1 – making soppressata
prosciutto and salsiccia
sunrise – 7:41, sunset – 5:19
9 hours and 38 minutes of daylight
click to read the making salami posts

Sausages 001Rick, Sarah and I left for the trip up to Sault Ste Marie yesterday. We drove to Rose-and-Derrick on Friday and Saturday morning we headed north. We got to my parents at 3:30. We had some coffee and some cookies and then went off to Metro to buy the meat for the prosciutto, soppressata and salsiccia. My 90 year-old dad drove.

At this time of year every grocery stores with an Italian clientele carries pork cuts to make the various salami. The refrigerated meat-cases were at the front of the store and signage was in both Italian and English. Also, the meat was incredibly inexpensive, because it’s priced like turkeys at Thanksgiving. My dad and Rick get along real well, and when Ciccio suggested maybe buying a fourth butt, Mr. Wertheimer quickly agreed. We bought 70 pound of meat. The bill was $160 Canadian. And for us buying with American money, the meat was a steal. (The Canadian dollar is trading at .69 cents against the US dollar.) So my very bargain-conscious friends were ecstatic.

We loaded two huge pork-legs and four pieces of pork-butt into my dad’s van and headed home. And given our short stay, my dad suggested we cut, debone and process the meat once we got home. He had everything ready – the table from the garage, the meat-grinder attached to a motor and bolted to a home-made cabinet, the knives, the sharpening rod and the aprons. Everything was set up in the old basement next to the stationary sinks. And my mom and my he agreed to hold off dinner until the meat was processed. Very unusual for a man who insists that dinner is always at 5:30.


January 16, 2016 diario/journal, salami

2 – making soppressata
prosciutto and salsiccia
sunrise – 7:41, sunset – 5:19
9 hours and 38 minutes of daylight
click to read the making salami posts

Sausages 027The pic is of my dad and Rick. The legs and one of the butt pieces have been deboned and they are now cutting the meat into strips so that it can be fed into the grinder. I had expected to buy the prosciutto leg already deboned, but it’s sold with the bone and you either do it yourself or pay the butcher to debone it. (My dad has been butchering meat since he was a young man. There is no way he was paying someone to do something he can do.) Also, my dad is the last hold-out still making his prosciutto with the bone. All the other immigrants have switched to a boneless prosciutto. Leaving the bone means that the prosciutto will need a year to dry and cure. The boneless prosciutto will be ready to eat in about 9 months.

The bones next to my dad came from the legs and the one butt. In Italy, these bones along with some of the fat would be boiled down and made into a pâté called frisoli was made. My dad would leave a bit more meat on the bones insuring a more meaty frisoli. I just put the bones in a bag and brought them out to the outside garbage.

My mother worried that we were eating late, put together a plate of meats and cheeses for us to snack on. The plate has last years prosciutto and soppressata. Also, there are four wine glasses, filled with my dad’s homemade wine, on shelves and ledges just outside the picture. You can’t have prosciutto, soppressata and cheese without vino.

BTW, this is the basement laundry room.


January 16, 2016 diario/journal, salami

3 – making soppressata
prosciutto and salsiccia
sunrise – 7:41, sunset – 5:19
9 hours and 38 minutes of daylight
click to read the making salami posts

Sausages 030The next step in the process was to grind the meat and to season it. In the pic, Rick is feeding meat strips into the grinder and Sarah is collecting the chopped-meat in a pan. The pan is the bowl of a casserole my mother brought from Aprigliano 60 years ago. (Growing up, it was my job to turn the crank on the grinder. Now, my dad has the manual meat grinder attached to a motor.)

My dad separated the chopped meat into mounds; each mound a huge ball that fit between his hands. For each mound he added a handful of coarse salt. And he finished the seasoning by adding two small mason jars of red-pepper paste. In Italy, I remember seasoning the meat with salt and paprika. But today a red-pepper paste replaces the paprika. Next, the seasoned meat needed to be mixed and for this my dad used his industrial mixer.

Over the years, my parents have purchased all the modern devices that make cooking, wine-making and salami-making easier. The industrial mixer came from a restaurant that a friend of the family ran. When the restaurant closed, my parents bought the mixer. It’s used to mix bread and cookie dough and meat for soppressata and salsiccia.

The seasoned meat was put into the cold-cellar and we went and had dinner. Tomorrow we fill the soppressata and sausage casings.


January 17, 2016 diario/journal, salami

4 – making soppressatasunrise – 7:41, sunset – 5:20
9 hours and 39 minutes of daylight
click to read the making salami posts

The meat grinder is re-assembled for stuffing. The knife and extruding plate are removed and a funnel is attached. The large funnel is for soppressata. My dad was up early tying one end of the casings. In the bowl are 13 other tied casings. He puts in the orange peel to mask the intestine smell. In the image on the right, he and Rick are tying the other end of the soppressata. This end has an extra long string so that the soppressata can be hung up. (And my dad, being the ultimate utilitarian, hung a spool of string from the ceiling. The string in the middle of the pic is from the spool. It’s out of the way, but easily accessible.)


January 17, 2016 diario/journal, salami

5 – making salsicciasunrise – 7:41, sunset – 5:20
9 hours and 39 minutes of daylight
click to read the making salami posts

At the end, we made six sausage links. The center image is of the grinder, its motor and the drawer with all the parts. (My dad assembled the whole contraption. It works from a peddle.) The star shaped items are the knives and the round face-plates with the holes determine the size of the meat being extruded. The face-plate with the larger holes is for soppressata and the one with the smaller holes is for salsiccia – sausage. The image on the right is Rick bolting the grinder back onto the cabinet.


January 17, 2016 diario/journal, salami

6 – the cold-cellarsunrise – 7:41, sunset – 5:20
9 hours and 39 minutes of daylight
click to read the making salami posts

In the image on the left, my dad is salting the prosciutti. The four prosciutti – two large and two smaller ones – stayed in the plastic tub for 48 hours. The middle image is of the salami my dad has already made. The second item in is pancetta. The last image on the right are the soppressate and the salsiccie we made. The outside-casings on the soppressata squeeze it and make the drying easier. (Sarah and I put the soppressate into these outside-casing. My dad had me gather the outside-casing onto a piece of PVC piping. Sarah and I slid the soppressata through the pipe and when it emerged it was wrapped in the constricting string casing.)

The middle and right images are in my dad’s cold-cellar. (There is enough food-stuff in this space to feed a family for at least six months. The demijohns with the wine are behind me.)


January 17, 2016 diario/journal, salami

7 – winter windmillssunrise – 7:41, sunset – 5:20
9 hours and 39 minutes of daylight
click to read the making salami posts

Sausages 061Connie invited us to take a ride out to the cottage and after lunch, we headed out. Maki Road that last month was snow-free was now buried under packed snow. Am so glad I don’t live here.

We stopped at the windmills. I like the tractors and snowplows at the bottom of the sleek elegant tower. When it comes to clean energy, Canada is ahead of us. The windmills on the Red Rock ridge have been turning for almost 10 years and the number of solar-farms in the area is a surprise and a hopeful sign.

We also stopped at the rise above Lakeshore Road; the same location where I shot the Boxing-Day pic. And of course I shot the same landscape now covered in snow.
Sausages 067


January 18, 2016 diario/journal, salami

8 – proscuitti and apronssunrise – 7:40, sunset – 5:21
9 hours and 41 minutes of daylight
click to read the making salami posts

Sausages 075It’s Monday morning and we’re packing the salami for our trip home. My dad bought a plastic tub (The black container is on the floor, under the mops, between Rick and my dad.) and I think everything will fit. The apron Rick is wearing was the prompt for the pic. Isn’t it the best? It’s one of my mom’s aprons. The image also has all the mechanics of the laundry room and I wanted to show them.

The proscuitti have been in a salt brine since Saturday and this morning my dad cleaned off the excess salt and coated them with pepper and paprika. They will be the first things into the plastic container, but until we’re ready they’ll hang in the cold-cellar for a couple of hours. This will shed or dry any excess moisture.

The highlight of the day will be lunch. My dad promised to serve moose meat. And sure enough by 11:30 a beautiful roast sat on the table surrounded by soft roasted carrots. It looked really good, but I stay away from game much to my dad’s displeasure. I ate a fava and pasta soup and some salad. There’s no way I can eat a full lunch and not want to sleep afterwards. And given that I’m all hepped up over getting through customs with our meat products, I had little appetite.

In packing the car, I suggested we casually throw our winter coats over the luggage and meat container.

It’s been a very short visit, but we have a four hour trip down to Oxford, an overnight at Rose-and-Derrick’s before we head out for the five hour trip home to Pittsburgh.


January 18, 2016 diario/journal, salami

9 – the drive backsunrise – 7:40, sunset – 5:21
9 hours and 41 minutes of daylight
click to read the making salami posts

grayling-mapDuring the winter months, the area between the Mackinaw Bridge and Grayling is infamous for raging storms. The area is also the narrowest part of the peninsula with Lake Michigan/Grand Traverse Bay on the west and Lake Huron on the east. Winds from the west are generally considered the mildest and most favorable, but up here they are deadly, because they mix with the winds coming down from the Arctic. These two systems sweep over Lake Michigan/Grand Traverse Bay picking up moisture and then dump it onto this 100 mile strip. The area is a micro-climate, a snow-belt.

We drove through white-outs where visibility was non-existent; we got caught behind a foolish driver and ended up swerving into the left lane; and at Gaylord we were routed off I-75 and onto local roads. The miserable conditions didn’t end until we made the bend east at Roscommon. Once out of the snow-belt, driving conditions were amazingly good.


January 19, 2016 diario/journal, salami

10 – the cold-cellar at mim’ssunrise – 7:40, sunset – 5:22
9 hours and 42 minutes of daylight
click to read the making salami posts

sausage-mimThis is the last entry of the making salami posts.

In five days, we drove 1200 miles; made proscuitti, soppressate and salsiccie with my dad; brought everything back; and hung them in Mim’s cold-cellar in Forest Hills. Both my dad and Rose suggested hanging the meat low. This keeps it away from the warmest and least humid ceiling area. And the shelf in the cold-room should be a good elevation.

There were two stressful times – at the Sault-Michigan border and driving through the Mackinaw/Grayling snow-belt. At the border, the worry was getting across with the meat; in the snow-belt, the worry was getting safely through the blinding conditions.

We now have to monitor the drying to make certain that the proscuitti and soppressate cure.


March 9, 2016 diario/journal, kaua'i

my fifth visitkaua’i 2016 – prologue
click to read the kaua’i 2016 posts


Tomorrow morning, I head off for Kaua’i. And for the first time, I’ll be the one who has been there before. Rose and Derrick had to cancel their trip. So, it’ll be Mary, Dom, Alyssa and I.

After supper I go check my phone and Rose sent a quick text telling me that they were going and that she was in a panic getting ready.


March 11, 2016 diario/journal, kaua'i

the muto women on hanalei baykaua’i 2016 – 1st entry
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the-womenIt’s our second day and we did the walk from the Ka’Eo Kai resort to the fancy St. Regis Hotel. (It’s taken me all this time to finally realize that we are on a ridge.) When we got to the end of the road, we walked down to the water and once at the beach facing Hanalei Bay, we went over the legend of Puff-The-Magic-Dragon.

Mary suggested that the three of them sit on the rock and that I take their pic. (L to R – Mary, Alyssa, Rose. The dragon is above their heads.) Derrick and Dom are off down the beach.

We spent the rest of the afternoon poolside; me drinking Gin-and-tonics, the rest of them downing Mai Tais. Even without the sun, we had a great time laughing and messing with each other.

Tomorrow is the Farmers’ Market and then a rush to find some sun. (I will not go looking for Helios; the beaches of the sun-god is not where I worship.)


March 12, 2016 diario/journal, kaua'i

old hippie and young hippieskaua’i 2016 – 2nd entry
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live-foreversThe market in Kilauea, just down the street from Princeville, is one of my favorites. And today it did not disappoint even with rain, at times, coming down in buckets. It was full of old hippies and what I call live-forevers. These are Kaua’i’s Millennials and here too they defined themselves by a compulsion for exercise and for healthy-eating. They do yoga, eat only organic, wear dreads, spurn make-up and work for environmentally conscious projects. All are blond, all are tall, all are skinny. It’s a very exclusive club and like their counterparts on the mainland pretend openness and diversity.

Many have started scented-oils boutiques, juice bars, but all espouse a philosophy of modernity that removes them from the agri-businessses and fossil-fuelers of the mainland.

Like the hippies of old, they too want a better world; like the hippies of old, they too have retreated from society; like the hippies of old, they too want an alternate life-style. But unlike the old hippies these new iterations are not willing to forego the luxuries of modernity. Their devices – iPhone and iPads – are never out of reach; their Coach purses and Marc Jacob’s sandals look right at home on the wet grounds of Kilauea farmers market.


March 13, 2016 diario/journal, kaua'i

you can spend the night foreverkaua’i 2016 – 3rd entry
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And Jesus was a sailor
when he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
from his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
only drowning men could see him
He said all men will be sailors then
until the sea shall free them

We’re on the Makai Golf Course, at the end of the ridge; to the right is Hanalei Bay; to the left is Anini Beach. (L to R – Derrick, Alyssa, Rose, Mary, Domenic) We decided that the path down to Anini Beach would be less wet, less difficult so we headed off. We always stop on the ridge. It’s taken me five years to understand that Princeville is all build on the ridge above Hanalei Bay.

Nina Simone was singing Suzanne and I wanted to add some of the lyrics to this post.

The other awareness that finally landed in my head was the length of the Anini Coral Reef. Derrick’s phone listed it as a 2 mile barrier. The Anini Coral Reef stops the waves from coming into shore creating a flat pool of ocean water.


March 14, 2016 diario/journal, kaua'i

the queen’s bathkaua’i 2016 – 4th entry
click to read the kaua’i 2016 posts

q-bathThis is the first blog-category that I’ve featured people in 4 of the 5 posts. Am I just getting old? I think it’s more about having featured the locations in previous Kaua’i posts and it’s natural to focus on the people. (L to R – Dom, Rose, Derrick, Alyssa, Mary, Mario. And none of the men are wearing sun-glasses.)

The Queen’s Bath always attracts the strange and stupid. This morning there was a family with 4 kids and a puppy. The kids were running over the black-lava rocks barefoot; the poor puppy had to make his way around the pools, over the boulders with no one near to help or guide him. The parents were huddle together looking at an iPhone oblivious of their kids, of their pet; they laughed together at some inane item on the device as their kids roamed all over the rocks. The imbecile award goes to another family who came down with snorkel equipment and pride in their stupidity. The ocean screamed danger, but they were pissed at the suggestion that it wasn’t safe to go down to the water. I insisted we leave, because I wasn’t interested in watching someone drown. The Queen’s Bath is infamous for the number of people who have drowned off its cliffs. The location is so remote, that any rescue effort is find the body.


March 15, 2016 diario/journal, kaua'i

we three kingskaua’i 2016 – 5th entry
click to read the kaua’i 2016 posts

We began the day hiking the Kalalau Trail one mile up and into jungle. The trail-head is at Ke’e Beach and after our hike, we sat on the beach for a couple of hours. This is one of my favorite beaches, because the Na Pali Coast is right there and the barrier reef keeps the waves back, creating an amazing swimmable area. The beach also offers me the option of staying out of the sun. The section between the parking lot and the beach is shaded by hundreds of ironwood pines.

In the above image – L to R – Mary, Derrick, Rose. The adult had gone walking and after a long trek down the length of the beach we headed back.

The hike up the into the mountains that are the Na Pali Coast is strenuous, but the look-outs make it worth the effort. Looking down on Ke’e Beach from the quarter-mile marker and seeing the reef, the still pools, the undulating coast-line is mesmerizing. Periwinkle, azure, cerulean, turquoise, cobalt, denim – are all there in one pallet. How is it that the Pacific can produce such variants in one location? I’ve never seen these shades of blue in the Atlantic or the Mediterranean.

Because of last night’s downpour, the trail was wet and more difficult. I spent most of the climb stepping with my hikers side-ways to minimize slipping and falling on my ass. This time I also brought no cameras. The last time we did the trail I was carrying two cameras. (Talk about a stupid idea.) The only thing I can say is, ignorance is not a great planner. This time knowing what to expect, all I carried was a water-bottle.


March 17, 2016 diario/journal, kaua'i

on the dunes of the red-moonkaua’i 2016 – 6th entry
click to read the kaua’i 2016 posts

moonscapeToday we headed south to Waimea. The drive up to the canyon is always a surprise to people who do it for the first time. (This was my 4th trip up the mountain.) The stream is one of my favorite locations on the ride up. The red soil surrounding the stream really does look extra-terrestrial. It’s hard to believe that the black lava-rocks disintegrate to red soil. And I have no understanding of why the banks of the stream have no vegetation. (L to R – Derrick, Dom, Mary, Alyssa, Rose)

At the first overlook, we could see the canyon and two waterfalls; at the second overlook, the one facing the ocean, the mist was so dense you could see nothing. We turned around and headed back down to Waimea. There’s a taco hut calling our names.

We always stop at the Taco Place for lunch and I always get a vegetarian taco. It’s a deep fried taco shell filled with fresh veggies.


March 17, 2016 diario/journal, kaua'i

cascades on the wallkaua’i 2016 – 7th entry
click to read the kaua’i 2016 posts

I don’t remember seeing this full of a waterfall on any of the other visits to the canyon. But then there have been a lot of clouds this week and we had a major rainstorm Tuesday night.

The falls are on the opposite side of the canyon. We are standing at the lowest overlook facing into the canyon. The other overlooks are on the same side, but to the left and around the side of the cliff, facing the open chasm and the blue, blue Pacific.

The ride down is very disorientating and can feel like sea-sickness – nausea and headache. But lunch settled all stomachs and we proceeded down to Poipu Beach. This is the land of the true tourists; locals are absent and the place reeks of money. (There are million dollar homes with no property, built against the black rocks of the shoreline. But they have a million dollar view of the setting sun.) The appeal of the south is the sun and the tourists. Locals do not live in the Poipu area; they come in to clean and at the end of their shifts leave by bus. All the major hotel chains are down here and the Grand Hyatt is the Vatican of 20th century American consumerism. It’s grand lobby and multi pools celebrate American excess. The complex is as grand as any of the robber-baron mansions of Newport. The difference is that it won’t last, because after all it’s all prefab cheap construction make to look like a Frank Lloyd Wright prairie house.


finding blossoms in maysunrise – 5:59, sunset – 9:12
15 hours and 11 minutes of daylight
canada 2016 – may(1)
click to read the canada 2016 posts

blossomsI am up in Northern Ontario and on the 19th of May, I found apple-blossoms that are getting ready to open – AMAZING. Earlier today, in Oakville, I was surprised to find that the dandelions had all gone to seed and here I am some 250 miles north of Oakville and the dandelions are just in bloom. Where Oakville is two-and-a-half weeks behind Pittsburgh, Sault Ste Marie is easily three-and-a-half weeks behind us in Western Pennsylvania.

The blossoms are on my dad’s trees in his back-yard.

This is my first time flying up in at least 20 years. And I think it’s going to continue. Combining the Toronto trip and the Sault Ste Marie trip was an inspiration. Last night, I visited with my cousins, when I go back I’m visiting with Frank-and-Norma, helping Joe plant his back-yard and going to dinner with Dave-and-Seane. In the past I would have done two separate trips. It’s nice to drive only to Toronto and then fly up to visit with my parents. (The two day car trip from Pittsburgh to Sault Ste Marie is now a thing of the past.)
14.5 hours of sunlight in Pittsburgh


ready to opensunrise – 5:58, sunset – 9:11
15 hours and 13 minutes of daylight
canada 2016 – may(2)
click to read the canada 2016 posts

lilacsI took a walk to my aunt-and-uncle’s and along the way, shot every spring flower I found. I’m here at a great time – all the blossoms are on the cusp, the lawns are yellow with dandelions. A sense of hope and new-life is everywhere. (I’ve always wanted to be in Italy for spring. I want to shoot poppies in the wheat fields; eat fresh fava with old priscuitto.) In industrial Sault Ste Marie, spring disguises the dirt, the deteriorating housing stock, a west-end neighborhood full of old people.

The walk took me through streets full of memories – the recurring one is of the old sub-basement church that was St. Gregory’s. I remember walking there in the winter; we were still living at my grandparents’ and I would walk over on Saturday night to go to confession. (Talk about a long time ago and a ritual that no longer exists.)

My dad’s garden is the opposite of my uncle’s. Where Ciccio is ambiguous with his environment, Milio is exact and methodical. My father’s garden has randomness built into it; my uncle’s garden is laid out in precise, even rows. The roof of my father’s greenhouse is covered in moss; shiny glass panels front and roof my uncle’s greenhouse. (My uncle is able to grow primrose; he has several beautiful clusters that come back year-after-year. I’ve had no luck with spring primrose.)

Lunch today is gnocchi, deep-fried chicken from some fast-food place, and rapini. I complained to my mother that the chicken is full of salt, but the warning went in one ear and out the other. (I can’t figure out if buying deep-fried chicken is a convenience or a gesture to the idea that they are not hide-bound to old immigrant traditions.)
14 hours 36 minutes of sunlight in Pittsburgh


the vernacularsunrise – 5:57, sunset – 9:12
15 hours and 13 minutes of daylight
canada 2016 – may(3)
click to read the canada 2016 posts

The title – vernacular – is a favorite word of mine. However, it’s always been difficult to apply it to anything other than the switching of the Catholic Mass from the universal Latin to the local language. This mental block comes specifically because I was raised Catholic and can remember Vatican II and the switch – the altar moved so that the priest faced the congregation and the old Latin became English. But my non-Catholic friends have always used the term to refer to the architectural designs common in an area. And I like applying the term to housing design. The house in the image is a typical 1920’s/1930’s frame structure here in Northern Ontario. It resembles in form, what we in the US, would call Cape Cod style. (I remember seeing similar house in the beach communities around Narragansett. John’s family summer cottage looked a lot like the house in the picture, just smaller and with no basement.) The alterations, to the typical New England cottage design, are mainly in the steeper roof pitch – understandable given the northern climate and the snow-bound winters and in the addition of a basement lifting it off the ground, off a ground that can stays frozen 5 months of the year.

Without a car, I’ve been walking everywhere and this morning I headed west and into the subdivisions on the other side of Goulais Avenue. I had never walked in this area before and it was wonderful to discover a neighborhood full of old houses that have been maintained, upgraded, but not fractured. (The house in the image does not have its front steps, but the pylons are there to support them once they are installed. Let’s hope that they don’t use wolmanized or pre-fab materials.)


marsh-marigoldssunrise – 5:56, sunset – 9:13
15 hours and 15 minutes of daylight
canada 2016 – may(4)
click to read the canada 2016 posts

marsh-mThe last two times I was up here in the spring, I shot these beautiful yellow flowers that lined the ditches and covered the bogs in and around Connie-and-Ron’s cottage. Connie has transplanted a bunch of the plants from the boggy back-lot across the street to the banks of the drainage-ditch on the north-side of the property. The plant is also know as Caltha cowslip and kingscup.

Naming this plant turned out to be easier than I had expected. I went to Google-Images and once I found something that looked like the plant, I was able to trace it back to a name and a genus. (This is not a plant I remember from when I was living here, but then looking at spring flowers or shooting them weren’t things I was doing or interested in. Never mind the fact that I went no where near bogs or ditches. These wet-areas were reminders of winter, reminders that we were living in a non-urban landscape and therefore undesirable. And let’s not forget, that the ditches, the stagnant waters were mosquito breeding-tanks.)

The long Victoria Day weekend is the traditional time to go out and open the cottages that line the shorelines of this norther community. The weather is cool; the land has lost its winter moisture; and the trees are full of blossoms and sap. It’s a great time to be out in the woods. The evergreens on Connie-and-Ron’s property are now mature and provide a wonderful canopy. Connie was putting in annuals and trying to rake-up all the twigs and dead branches winter left behind.


July 16, 2016 canada, diario/journal

breakfast of championscanada 2016 – july(1)
click to read the canada 2016 posts

Yesterday, I drove to Toronto, parked the car at Dave’s, took a cab to City Island and got on a plane to Sault Ste Marie. (So much easier than the two-day drive.) By 5:30, I was sitting in my parents’ house having supper.

This morning, I look out the window and there are Ciccio and Dominic, at the backyard picnic-table, having breakfast – fave, wine, home-made bread and zucchini-flower fritters. It was 7:00 am. I walked out with my espresso to eat some fave and a couple of fritters. (Ciccio made the fritters without salt. Not recommended. And, I like my fave cooked; they are bitter, raw.)

When I mentioned that in the spring, online there were images of Italians eating fave, bread and drinking wine for breakfast, my dad said that in Calabria the fave were ready for the feast of St. Michael in early May. Whoa! that is two months earlier than here in Northern Ontario.

I didn’t visit long; it was in the low-sixties and I had on a tee and shorts.


July 16, 2016 canada, diario/journal

marisa, connie, commare amaliacanada 2016 – july(2)
click to read the canada 2016 posts

Last night, Connie, Ron and I went to the reception for Lily and Michael – Marisa’s son and daughter-in-law. Lily and Michael live in Taiwan, and were married last year. This is their first trip back to Sault Ste Marie and Michael’s parents had a reception for the newlyweds.

The image is Marisa, Connie and Marisa’s mom – Commare Amalia. Connie and Marisa are old friends, they grew up and got in trouble together. Commare Amalia and Mafalda grew up together in Aprigliano and have maintained their close friendship all there years.

It was nice to see people that I haven’t seen in years. Guido Caputo, a guy I went to high-school with, came over and said hello and Ugo Le Pera, a guy i grew up with in Aprigliano, also came over to visit and chat. Had I met either of them on the street, I would never have recognized them. I also got to visit with Lina Fragomeni (née Musso) and with Franca Caputo (née Pedatello). The Musso family and my Dad were very close; they came from the same parish in Aprigliano; and back in the 1960’s the two families spent a lot of time together. The Pedatello family lived across the street. Emilio Pedatello designed, built and installed the modern looking cupboards in my parents’ upstairs kitchen.

common burdock

July 17, 2016 canada, diario/journal

thistle-like and commoncanada 2016 – july(3)
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thisselThis morning, on my walk to my aunt-and-uncle’s, I wanted to see how the vegetation changed since mid-May. The blossoms are all gone; it’s the transition between the summer and fall flowers.

Thistle-like, common Burdock is pretty to shoot, I like the spiky purple flower, but a miserable plant to interact with. I remember getting the green burrs on my clothes and spending time yanking and cutting them off. Its only redeeming quality is that the flowers provide pollen and nectar for honeybees when clover is on the wane and goldenrod is still thinking of blooming.

Already, the wild-grass is turning yellow and the unwanted, fast-growing, summer weeds are taking over. They sprout from cracks in driveways and sidewalks; they invade the weed-free gardens and the edges of flower-beds. (My mother laments the Canadian ban of Roundup; my uncle and father spend extra time weeding.) Where spring made everything look clean and fresh, the mid-summer weeds remind all of the coming cold. The frost-free growing season at this latitude is about 130 days. They could have their first frost as early as mid-September. In contrast, Pittsburgh has 171 frost-free days and the first frost is postponed until late-October.

It took a lot of searching to find the common Burdock; it was similar to the work I did to find the marsh-merigolds. In both instances it was fun to finally put a name and information to plants that I’ve seen all my life.


July 18, 2016 canada, diario/journal

golden yarrowcanada 2016 – july(4)
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yarrow1The most surprising and at times disturbing aspect of visiting this far north is seeing flowers that in more southern climates thrive and fill pots and gardens here look defective, stunted and out of place. The geraniums are especially stunted. Begonias, petunias and impatience grow scrawny or are totally missing from the landscape. But then dahlias and clematis do amazing well. It’s cold nights and warm soil these renegades need and that combination is here in spades. Also, Gold-yarrow and Burdock are everywhere.

I think the pervasiveness of warm-climate plants and southern housing structures makes the environment contrary. The plants that thrive here – Dandelions, Burdock, Yarrow – are all designated as undesirable and worthy of extermination. Home-owners are encouraged to buy the mass-produced, genetically modified annuals stocked by Home Depot, Walmart and every other discount chain that has invaded the landscape. The idea that native plants can make beautiful gardens and beautiful flower-beds is totally missing. Just like the idea that steep-roofed, easily heated homes work best this far north.

At one time Mother Church controlled the message – you spoke Polish, too bad, the Mass is in Latin. In modern times, corporations decide what we wear, what we eat, what we grow, where we live, how we live. And their vision, just like that of Mother Church, is focused on conformity, standardization and sameness. Best for control, the quarterly-report, the bottom-line.


July 18, 2016 canada, diario/journal

a bear in the woodscanada 2016 – july(5)
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bearConnie and I are driving up to the cottage at Red Rock and there in the middle of the road is a Black-bear. Holy Shit!! Connie thought it was great; I thought, let’s get out of here NOW. I did manage to pull the camera out and get a few shots. It looked like a young cub recently weaned and not a full-grown adult. Thank god for small favors.

In all the years I’ve been coming up here, this is my first bear-sighting. It came as we were talking about the practice of people already living in this isolated, Northern Ontario, wilderness community buying cottages to escape the urban landscape that is the small town of Sault Ste Marie, population 75,000. Having a lake-side cottage, here known as a camp, is very common. Joe Sanguinetti and I laugh. They already live in the middle of the woods, why do they need a camp a bit of an overkill, No?

Connie also mentioned how much work it is to maintain two homes. I laughed; thinking how ingrained the idea of a camp is for people up here. The whole time we were growing up, we badgered our parents to buy a camp. Mafalda claimed she had spent enough time in the wilderness helping my grandfather tend his flock in La Sila. And Cicio was busy making a living and building a house to listen to us preteen, Canadian wannabes.


July 19, 2016 canada, diario/journal

across the street from the millcanada 2016 – july(6)
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This morning I walked the neighborhood south of Wallace Terrace. When I was living here back in the early 60s, it was full of Polish immigrants. The elementary school in the neighborhood was St. Stanislaus. Like St. Veronica’s, the grammar school Frank, Ron and I went to, is was made over in the 1970’s with a new skin and modern lines and like St. Veronica’s the building is now abandoned and graffiti covered. The thousands that filled these Catholic schools have all left. (In the 1970s the Soo reached 90,000. But when the steel industry went to China and South America, the immigrants stopped coming and the population dropped to 75,000. It has never seen an increase again.)

I don’t remember walking these streets before. Back then, there was no reason to go below Wallace Terrace. We had our neighborhood and they had theirs. The only Polish person I knew from this part of town – Jerry Obierski – I met in high-school.

Today the area is a mix of old Italians and Polish Canadians and families who have fallen through the social safety-net. The houses in the above image are almost derelict, but still have people living in them. They are across from mill Gate #3. It’s the Canadian version of the left-over, 1940’s mill-towns that dot the Western Pennsylvania landscape.


July 19, 2016 canada, diario/journal

the millcanada 2016 – july(7)
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Back in the late Fifties and Sixties, the steel-mill the Plant was a source of pride for those of us living in this Northern Ontario town. A job in the mill guaranteed a great income; a job in the mill meant you and your family had access to the Algoma Steel Health Clinic – free doctors, free health care, free prescriptions. Calabrian immigrants flocked to Sault Ste Marie to work in the steel-mill, the Abitibi Paper-mill, the Algoma Central Railroad, the Weyerhaeuser Lumber-mill.

Going from high-school to the mill was an acceptable career path. For those of us heading to Southern Ontario for university, the mill was a great place to work during the summers. Frank worked at the Plant for over 4 summers, plus a 7-month stint from January to August of 1974. He claims, that the coke ovens and the blast furnaces have left an indelible mark on my mind. We could make enough money between May and August to cover the next year’s tuition, room-and-board, books and spending money.

I worked at the Plant the summer of 1970. My first assignment was on a steel-coil conveyor-belt. The red-hot coils came down the belt and a full-time worker and I put a band around the coil. You banded 10 coils and took a rest. I liked this assignment; it had a specific task and you did that task for 8 hours. The second assignment was in the Cold Mill. When we got there, for our 11 to 7 shift, the foreman told us to go find a place a sleep and to come back in time to punch out. I hated working in the Cold Mill. There was no way I could fall asleep on some bench in the middle of a warehouse. The third assignment that summer was at the blast-furnace. I worked with my uncle and my neighbor from across the street. The university guys moved the scarred bricks, lining the sides of the furnace, out and then handed new refractory-bricks to the brickworkers as they relined the sides. The old guys loved to mock us snots, after all we were never gonna get to feel the 3500-degree heat of hell on our faces. 1

In the Eighties and Nineties, a new reality hit – cancer was ravaging the mill-workers, young people were being laid-off in droves, the summer jobs dried up and the town’s economy went into a tail-spin. Within 10 years, the city lost 25% of its population.

But back in the late Fifties and Sixties, the steel-mill was our pride-and-joy.

1  At the end of August of 1970, I left Sault Ste Marie and never lived in Canada again.


July 20, 2016 canada, diario/journal

routines interruptedcanada 2016 – july(8)
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porterDriving up to Toronto and getting on a plane to Sault Ste Marie is amazing. The twelve hour car ride has become a 4 hour drive. My favorite part is Porter’s inflight service. They actually serve a nice red in glass tumblers.

The only hitch is Porter, as of yet, doesn’t have a phone-app for a digital boarding pass. The pass gets sent to email and you show the QR code in the email message. (For the trip up, I printed the boarding-pass and therefore didn’t have to fuss with email on my phone.) My parents take me to the airport and I convince them to not come in, because I am going directly through Security and the waiting area.

At check-in, I show the agent the QR code from my email using my phone. When I ask about Security, she reminds me that I’m early and can wait in the outside area. (I know I’m early and one reason is to go through security quickly and without standing in line.) At Security, the agent also reminds me that I am very early and then she asks for my phone. (Apparently looking at the boarding-pass isn’t enough.) I give her my phone and start loading everything – camera case, brief, laptop, belt, hat and shoes – onto the belt. Once on the other side of the scanner, I start putting everything back together. I’m sitting in the waiting area when an attendant announce that someone left behind their cell phone. In my head – OMG, what an airhead, like totally. A few minutes later, I go into my brief to check if any new texts have come in and realize I don’t have my phone. Guess I’m the airhead! I’ve taught myself how to use the phone-apps to check-in and get my boarding pass. I’ve not used my email to do the same and interrupting my routine and handing my phone over made me forget the get it back from the security agent. I retrieve my phone and start reading on the tablet.

When the plane is ready to board, I again show the email and am allowed to proceed to the tarmac. On the plane, the attendant is checking boarding-passes and when I go to show her mine, the email is gone. What the fuck! She politely asks me to sit and wait until she’s checked in the rest of the passengers; she will use her passenger list to verify my seat. The surprise was that the next passenger after me had the same problem – her boarding pass email had also disappeared from her phone. The problem got resolved and I went to my seat. (The email QR code had not been downloaded from the server and when I lost connectivity, I lost the email.)

Had to tell Rose the story, because she is compulsive about printing out her boarding passes fearing that the technology wont work and she will be left behind. Well now she has proof that her fears are not unfounded.


July 21, 2016 canada, diario/journal

a leaf in the parkcanada 2016 – july(9)
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High-Park 002Asomething that was once an anticipation will become a memory
In the stifling heat, Frank and I still got in a walk in. And like other times, we head for High Park and the trail around Grenadier Pond.

The planter is shaped like a maple-leaf and filled with red impatiens. Toronto has many such planters. On the Gardiner, on a slope across from Exhibition Place, are a number of floral advertisements that use flowers and shrubs to create corporate logos. The first time I saw these was back in the Sixties and then, the most prominent one was for Tip Top Tailors. (Their old Art Deco headquarters, on Lakeshore Boulevard, near the entrance to Toronto City Airport, has been turned into expensive lofts.)

I’m the first wave of out-of-town guests for David-and-Marc’s wedding. Tomorrow, Frank and Norma are hosting his family from Sault Ste Marie for brunch. There’s a calm sense of anticipation, but today is for politics; for two old hippies to analyze the Republican Convention. I tell Frank that I’m so glad to be in Canada while that miserable slug-fest is taking place. I do mention how I’m keeping track of the events geared to broaden The Donald’s appeal (after-all isn’t that what conventions are for?) and to gauge if they’re successful. I explain:
– Melania’s speech was well received, but then lost its impact when it was revealed that it had been plagiarized. (first effort goes awry)
– Chris Christie’s call-and-response was too much like a Nazi rally. (second effort scares the shit out of most Independents)
– Trump’s daughter is too Steford for a modern audience. (third effort misses its mark)
– Ted Cruz doesn’t endorse The Donald, rather he tells people to vote their conscience. (fourth effort gets derailed)
– Mike Pence to way too bland. (fifth effort doesn’t catch fire)
– The Donald’s speech was dark and exclusionary and scary (last effort leaves a national audience shocked)


July 23, 2016 canada, diario/journal

a weddingcanada 2016 – july(10)
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david-marcCanada has had marriage equality since July 2005 – eleven years today. Marc and David were married by a Justice-of-the-Peace at beautiful Rosetta McClain Gardens on the south-east side of Toronto.

I’ve never been to this end of town and it was a great surprise. For the longest time, I had no idea where the area, now known as The Danforth, was; then Norma explained that on the other side of the Don Valley Parkway, Bloor Street changes names and becomes Danforth Avenue. With that reference, I knew how to situate the area in my internal map of the city.

Bloor is one of my anchors in my experience of Toronto. My grandparents lived on Jane a couple blocks north of Bloor. And when I visited, my grandfather and I would walk down to Bloor to do the food shopping. My aunt Rita and I went to see the 1968 Planet of the Apes at a movie theater on Bloor. My first ever experience riding a subway began at the Jane and Bloor station. When my parents visited, my mother and I would walk Bloor all the way to High Park. Later still, Jo’ and I came to the west end of Bloor for coffee and dessert. There were some amazing German bakeries in the area. And later still, I remember taking Christian and Seane there for lunch at McDonald’s. And I remember Seane refusing to hold hands when we needed to cross busy Runnymede.

David-Marc  016ASo, taking those old memories and extending them east to The Danforth allowed me to get my bearings. And as I drove to the park for the wedding, I couldn’t help but think old Toronto. The city as I knew it when I visited with my grandparents.

On The Danforth there were no glass spires cutting the horizon; there was no clogged expressway shadowing the streets below it. The neighborhood was full of single-family homes and family-owned business and there were people everywhere strolling, eating, sight-seeing. I saw several community parks with pools and baseball diamonds and tennis courts and playgrounds; I followed the trolley as it rode the rails on Kingston. Where recently I’ve been comparing the modern city to the urban landscapes of Blade Runner, east Toronto is a throw back to a gentler more humane city.

Also, The Danforth has drawn a new generation of gays and hipsters who are gradually turning what used to be GreekTown into a modern community. The old immigrant houses are being repurposed and retrofitted to accommodate the technology, the design-sense and the reconstituted families of the new inhabitants. Plexiglass, and brushed-chrome, and barn-doors, and multi-purpose kitchens, and huge bathrooms have redefined the interior spaces of the old houses. David-and-Marc’s home is one of those renovated structures and it’s elegant in its reincarnation. The wedding reception for family and Open House for friends were both held at their house.

something that was once an anticipation has become a memory



October 23, 2016 2016, diario/journal, reflections

calabrian diaspora

Calabrians expatriates number almost two million – 1, 872, 500 to be exact.
Calabrians also form the largest Italian community abroad.
• 226,500 live in Europe
• 590,000 live in North and Central America
• 896,000 South America
• 160,000 in Australia and Oceania

A breakdown by country, shows the following distribution of Calabrian immigrants:
• Argentina – 580,000
• United States – 360,000
• Brazil – 270,000
• Canada – 230,000
• Australia – 160,000
• Germany – 73,000
• Switzerland – 54,000
• Venezuela – 15,000
• Chile/Uruguay – 18,000
• Belgium – 13,000
• Great Britain – 12,000
• Sweden – 6,000
• Luxembourg – 1,500.

Both the image and the data came from the FB page – Calabria Ieri e Oggi.


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