Archive for the 'Home Base' Category

Spaghetti on a Friday Night

March 12th, 2010

The smell of the sauce on the stove was worth just standing and breathing in, a drug, a road sign on the path to creation, a promise of sensation to come, a warm reminder that this was home.

I felt your arm snake around my waist, and your cheek against my back. If there was anything that would distract me from the creation, it had always been you, even before I knew that you existed. There had always been that arm, I just never knew what name was attached to it, I always looked, always expected, always hoped for, but never found, until this moment, when the arm was there. I knew that feeling, I knew that cheek.

It fit.

A simple statement to a very complex emotion. I closed my eyes. I was trying to stop time. I was trying to hold on to the feeling of that arm around me, that cheek against me, that time of perfection.

The fragrance of the spaghetti sauce filled the air, and my mind came alive, storing memories, sensations, happiness, glory…. More emotions than a man should have at one time.

To this day, I do not know if the arm was just for a second, or for eternity. I did stop time and reveled in the feelings.

I reached behind and pulled your back in towards me. It made you no tighter against me, but made me feel as if I were adding to the moment, letting you know how important this was to me, how it filled my soul.

There are other sensations that, I believe, you think are more important to me, but it is the dancing to the music, the arm by the stove, the kiss in the dining room, the warm body under the fur throw that are important, fulfilling, manufacturers of smiles and contentment. You have probably felt that contentment in your life… watching a son grow up, hearing a grandson was born, feeling that son in your arms for the first time, making up with a daughter for the thousandth. These feelings exist in me as well. They are a moment of perfection, a moment when time stands still, a moment when you press the pause button on life and let the feeling pour in like a flood in spring. I do not know how else to explain it, but it was all here in a pot of sauce and a loving arm.

There are moments when life is crystal clear, when the meaning becomes apparent, the philosophers bow in awe at the perception, the tides of the economy, and war, patriotism and hatred are pushed aside and told to wait. These moments are sometimes passed without recognition, and that is a pity, for these are the moments that life is meant for. This is why we are given the gift, this is why we are born. I think that, if an afterlife is a fact, that these are the moments that we will be judged on. The universe will ask if we appreciated the present, if we knew the gift, if we saw eternity in a second.

I made a stirring motion in the pot, but it was my heart that was stirring. I turned for a kiss, but you moved to the left and came around front. No half kiss for you….. for you had realized the moment.

By the time the pots came out of the lower cupboard to be filled, one by one, the sauce was a collection of memories that could be taken out and tasted. You are the spices that fill the senses and enhance the taste of a memory.

You are here, the arm around my waist, the thought in my head for the millionth time in the last minute, the feeling that will give the sauce an appetite.

Thank you… on a Friday night… With your arm around me, even though you are miles away.

One Last Waltz

April 29th, 2010

He came up to the assembly plant, with its’ abandoned look, and broken windows.

This had been the scene of so many bad memories, the months on the picket line in the cold and rain and snow, the arguing with plant guards who were just trying to do their job, the tears of hopelessness at night as the world seemed to crumble and a way of life passed them by.

He had broken a few of those windows himself, in anger and desperation, and now could see the construction rigs sitting in the extensive parking lot, waiting for tomorrow morning when this monstrosity would come down, and they would not mourn her one bit, not one second…

He moved to the door, and reaching though a broken pane of glass, opened the lock, held out his hand for her, and entered. She was plainly worried about this, and he came close, held her as he always did, brushed one gentle kiss onto her forehead and told her “One last look around before we condemn this place to hell”.

They walked to the changing area where they had shared a quick embrace before going to their separate stations every morning, past the cafeteria where they would have lunch together very rarely as they worked different stations in the plant, out to the paint shop where she had gone every day.

At times she had hated the repetition that the job demanded, but now she missed the security of the paycheck at the end of the week, the voices of her friends every morning, the bridge games on Saturday night with co-workers who had long since moved away. She would not miss the work, but she would miss them.

Out to the line where he had spend so many years on so many models putting the finishing touches on each car.

There was a light in between the hanging chains, and she pulled at his hand fearing a security guard who would think they came here to damage what was to be destroyed tomorrow morning. He assured her that any guard would be in the same position they were in and would understand completely.

They went towards the light, and coming around the corner she saw an assembly stand with the checkered tablecloth from their kitchen thrown over it.

Two chairs were stationed around the stand, raised on wooden boxes to provide a convenient height. On the table was the storm lantern from the garage, casting a yellow light on the two plates, the good silver from her mother, and the two lunch boxes they had carried every day, two cans of coke beside two wine glasses, and one red rose, her favourite.

He turned to her, and putting one finger under her chin, gently lifted her lips to his.

“This is the spot I was working when I first saw you, the day you did replacement work on this line. I have never forgotten that moment, and I never will. I am not sure whether I fell in love right at that second, or whether it took a minute or two to sink in, but I just knew that somehow we were meant to be together.”

“You have been with me through the thick and the thin, through three wonderful children who will never have to work in this hellhole, and one wonderful life that makes it all seem worthwhile.”

“I just wanted to come here one last time, to celebrate you, and the ceremony of our life that seemed so humdrum at the time, but was just the fabric on which you sewed the pattern of our love.”

“I adore you for each stitch and will continue to for the rest of my days”

As he reached out his hand and led her over to the table, soft music came over the crackly P.A. system, the waltz that they had danced to at their wedding. Now she realized how he knew the security guard would understand. It must be Johnson on duty tonight.

She reached over and held his hand very tightly, the steady support of her life, and looking up realized that he had turned hell into a palace just for her.

Over the weekend I went out to Ste. Rose to purchase some art. One of the pictures by Chantal Pepin caught my eye. The painter asked me what was the story behind the painting, and for her, and for you, here it is.

Chantal Pepin's Painting

There are some things worth driving all night for…

I had been gone the whole week, and the last day had stretched all afternoon… I told her to go to bed and I would be the one crawling in with her sometime in the early morning… She told me to drive safely and I assured her that I had not died on her yet, and with her waiting for me at the other end of the drive, would not die this time… We blew each other tele-kisses and I started the drive.

In the early morning hours, I closed the door as silently as possible, hung up my coat and started to tip toe upstairs when a light in the living room caught my eye… I figured she must have left it on and went in with a smile to turn it off for the night.

Curled up in the soft reading chair, dressed In the purple teddy that she said made her feel sexy, she slept. I moved slowly over beside her and just sat on the floor looking up at her. I noticed the soft breathing, and the way a fallen strand of hair moved with each breath, in then out. I do not know if I had been as much in love ever as I was during that vigil. I did not move, for the moment was perfection, a vivid reason for my love. I wished I were a great painter so that I could catch the moment and everyone could see the love implicit in that gentle act.

One eye opened, just the tinyest bit, and I did not move. Then she shut it again and sighed deeply. About 10 seconds later both eyes came wide open, all of a sudden, and she bounced out of the chair and flung here arms around me.

I just held on, not too sure what the words were, but extremely sure what they meant, to her, and to me…

She jumped up and became very practical. “Do you want me to fix you something? Are you tired? Are you hungry?”

I smiled and said no, the I was just happy to be here, in her arms, home…

She held out a hand, pulled me up to a gentle kiss, and led me upstairs.

Party for Castigleone

January 28th, 2011

In the late afternoon hours, the fragrance of the ripening lemons wafted up the hill and filled the porch of a beautiful bed and breakfast in Ravello, Campagnia, Italy, mingling with the windblown fragrances of the Amalfi coast and the warmth of the late summer sun. It was a time for rest and repose, with you working tranquilly over the computer, naming each image so that the memories would join up with the saved snapshots at some future date. I just lay back and let the long hours of driving drain out of my frame. Each breath inhaled was a reminder that the road was finished for the time, and now was the opportunity to let reality sink in a bit, and reconcile the dreams with the actuality.

You looked over and pointed out one picture, and with a shake of my head and a wrinkled nose, the picture vanished forever, a shot, unloved and unflattering, banished forever to the recycle bin…

Our host came around the corner, and when asked where we should go to dinner, he pointed over to stairs on our left and told us that these would take us down to Atrani, a small village that lay below, where there were very good restaurants. I looked out over the bay of Naples lying far below, and knew that, if I got up and walked to the edge of the porch, I could see down the coast for quite a ways, but I had neither the energy or the inclination. Travel is wonderful and mind expanding, and the wonders I had seen just in the past few days would take years to truly sink in, and, in the retelling, take on new insights, new comparisons, and maybe a fresh gloss of mental paint to make romantic the rundown, or exciting the normal. Above all though, travel is taxing on the body and soul.

After an hour the sun was sinking itself into the sea, and we decided to follow the stairs down to the town… as one flight led to another we realized that it was a lot further down than it looked, but the views afforded were spectacular and the trip was more interesting than taxing. The village was quaint, and small, with three restaurants stretching back from the sand. Each empty at this time, as the tourist rush had passed and the dinner rush not yet begun. The service was slow and deliberate, but that fit with the mood of the evening, and I am not sure that the staff, having seen the tourists come and go, and being able to react to their moods, did not deliberately make it that way.

After dinner we looked at the stairs again, and you asked how many I thought there were. I guessed 200, trying to sound optimistic… At 500 we stopped counting and just continued moving up one flight at a time. The views, for some reason, were not as compelling going up as they were coming down…

Music could be heard on the air, and an odd song reached out in the night… I have never been shy, and so went over and, leaning over a down staircase, saw a group of people, heating vegetables on an open grill.

They motioned us down, and we went, looking for anything that would dispel the monotony of the ever climbing stairs.

In a large court, just in front of the church, that any roman would have recognized as a small forum, were 50- 60 people, mostly sitting around the edges, watching the comings and goings of their neighbours. A pretty girl came over and gestured us in, making us welcome. Now our fractured Italian came into play as well as fractured English from what it turned out were the inhabitants of the town of Castigleone.. The church was the center of the town which clung to the staircases going up to the road which was Revello and down to a cliff that dropped down to a beach, Way too far to jump down, but, looking over the wall that separated town from sky provided a beautiful view and a bit of vertigo when one looked down.

Each of the members of the town came by and greeted us… One old gentleman talking to you in heavily accented French about his youth working in Marseilles, while his wife filled, and then refilled our glasses with homemade limoncello, so fragrant and full of the taste of the local lemons, it was so much better than the commercial product selling throughout Italy. A beautiful young girl was over at the piano holding the charisma of the whole town it seemed, and the pianist would craft tune after tune, seemingly made for the singer’s voice. The effect was much greater than just the two of them, and the two ladies got up to dance… they beckoned us out into the forum to join them, and, whether it was the wonderful musical duo, or the magic of the limoncello, we joined in enthusiastically…. A shout came from one of the sidelines “Ballerino” (dancing man), and I realized that I was the only man out there and with Napolitan machismo being what it was, would stay the only man out there until the evening warmed up quite a bit… None of this mattered, for the music, and the people were carrying me away, and I was exchanged from one set of arms to another, dancing with you for just a moment, before laughing and singing with the music, I was swept along to another partner…I am not sure if we were out there for two or three songs or for many, as the time passed wonderfully, and I noticed that one or two of the older men had been coaxed out to join me in the arms of the ladies. Age does have wisdom it seems…

We learned that, in Castigleone, they celebrate the last day of summer each year. I loved the idea and stored it away for future deliberation.

I noticed that each of the ladies had unwrapped food which was being laid out on long tables in front of the church, and each wanted us to try her dish…, one after the other, each as delicious as the next, each more filling than the one before. Meats and fishes, breads and deserts, and passed in tiny measure on the paper plates..

During dinner I saw the piano player mingling and realized that she was blind, which made the music more interesting. We talked to the singer in our best Italian, which brought peels of laughter.

As the food disappeared from the table, a pair of men got up and sung a Napolitan song, then another told as story, and then they brought out a large sheet and hung it on the uphill wall of the forum. Upon this they projected the words of the songs, and started a karaoke machine. As each new Italian song came on, a microphone would be passed around and the song on the sheet (gives a new meaning to the words sheet music) would be sung with greater or lesser accuracy, but the night was not to be judged on singing talent, but on a sense of community, and a joy found in living and being part of something larger than one’s self.

The mike was rushed over to me, and, looking up at the sheet I saw that they had put up Fred Ebb’s words to the John Kander song “New York, New York”. I am known for folk, rock and blues, rarely standards, so, when I sang, with no hesitation, or shyness (only way to sing, like you are in the shower and no one else is home) you looked at me like I had grown a third arm, and I got a large round of applause. A few minutes later, one of the ladies came over and told me that there had been a vote taken and I was officially the “hit of the party”. I laughed, while the lyrics to “New kid in town” rushed through my imagination, but knew exactly what I had to do… I took the little trophy, and, on one knee, before the young girl who had been singing so well all night, offered the trophy with what little humility still remains inside me. This proved to be a wonderfully popular move, and we were given small gifts and a picture of the whole population of the town.. which could be counted easily… on the face of a calendar from the previous year.

We decided that we should mount the last few flights of stairs and get to bed. One of the ladies accompanied us to make sure we knew the correct way (which was easy… “up”), and we accepted.

The next morning I went down to mass at the church on the forum, and was greeted warmly by the whole town. I was told by one or two that we were now adopted as residents…

I still have that calendar, and I still have that town in my heart, and, each year, on the last day of summer, with the calendar hanging in the kitchen, we bring in as many people as we can and have a Castigleone party in Brossard, Quebec, Canada, or North Castigleone as it is known in our house for that one day.