Sunday, July 29, 2018

My mom's guide to making your kids behave

FOR THE LOVE OF PETE:  The guy I was named after was a
hard act to follow.
This might sound weird, but there was a time when I thought that nothing would make my late mom Huena happier than if I died a martyr.

I might have been, like, five, when I had those feelings, but for a time, I was dead certain that if some malevolent non-believer gouged my eyes out and stripped me of my skin like a banana in his failed efforts to make me renounce Catholicism, my mom's day would be made.

Better yet, maybe they would  crucify me upside down, like they did to St. Peter, who I was sort of named after.

The evil doers could stab me with a big sword, there'd be blood everywhere, and before I died, my face would suddenly lighten up with glee. My  head would  be encircled by a halo of light; and Huena would be on her knees nearby, her hands clasped together in delight, knowing that her baby--the youngest of her 10 kids--was a true Catholic hero and safe in the hands of God.

Then again I could be wrong on this. She mightn't have wanted me to die.

But one thing I do know: Growing up as one of Huena Carter's children was the finest childhood a person could have. Even if it meant getting my eyes gouged out.

Here's why.
 MOM'S THE WORD: I'm not saying that my late brother Pat did
anything wrong, but the evidence suggests otherwise.

Huena (and my father Tom, but he was mostly a wing man) had her hands full, with 10 kids, a small house, and a husband who ran his own business which meant working 25 hours a day. So you can't blame her if, in her chest of family management tricks, Huena kept many tools.

Chief among those tools, and this might surprise the so-called parenting experts of the world, was unparalleled generosity.

In Huena's eyes, none of her kids ever did anything remotely wrong. If we got in trouble, it was because of the bad company we ran into. Even with them, mom would be like "they're more to be pitied than censured."

For a religious woman, Huena really sucked at the judgmental thing.

Also.

"You'll eat what's on your plate," was something Huena said, never.

True fact. If you didn't like what Huena had on offer, she'd come up with something else. She never forced me to eat anything I didn't like.

A registered nurse, Huena also liked pain-killing medicine. If it made her kids' sadness go away, Huena was all over it. I remember her saying "if God had intended us to fly, He would have given us the brains to build airplanes." And the same applied to medicine.

Another? Her total and utter shunning of corporal punishment.
HE HAD HER AT 'HALO': Gabriel telling Mary that sleeping in
her old room at her folks' house will never be the same.

Huena knew that if  she had God on her side, there was never any reason to raise a hand to any of her kids. One big downside is, she raised a bunch of wusses, but the fact is, she had other, more effective means of keeping us in check.

Here's one. My favourite, in fact.

Huena had a rule: "You can't hit anyone smaller than yourself."  (As the youngest, this definitely worked in my favour.)

And I just remembered this. For some reason, we Carters all knew that no matter how mad you got, if you ever ever struck your mom or dad, when you died your hand would stick out of your grave so passers by would know that "here lies a parent hitter."

Another?

Statues. Everywhere.

My mom's house made the Vatican look like an empty warehouse.

My mom had statues where other moms didn't know they had places. In closets. On stairway landings three quarters of the way between the second storey and the first.

In every room; on every wall, and in almost every corner, she had Jesus' on the cross and Jesus as a little kid.

Some statues were of saints--one of my favourites was St. Christopher, who is usually cast holding another statue--presumably the Christ child--on his shoulders, fording a river. I defy you to find where in scripture it says this happened but so what? Chris was the patron saint of travellers.

Among the army of statues were a few of her favourites: the martyrs.

And here's something most people don't have to think about.

Say you get married. And you bring your new wife home. And you and she get to "sleep" in your old room. And it's still decorated with pictures of Jesus surrounded by little children and The Virgin Mary being told by the Angel Gabriel that she's going to be giving birth to God's son and maybe, just in case you didn't get the message the first time, a martyr or two.  Let me put the newly wed husband's reaction thusly: He's very happy knowing he and his new wife have their own apartment to go back to.

I just remembered another of Huena's management tools.
THE CHRIS CROSS:  Nobody has
ever asked 'when did this happen?'

Training.

Say one of us Carter kids got in a big argument in the kitchen and,then, frustrated because we didn't get our way, we'd storm upstairs to the second floor, stomping our feet as hard as possible.

We'd hear from downstairs, mom saying,"Don't look down!"

Again, without a syllable of explanation from Huena, we all knew that meant, "look down and you'll see that your feet are transforming into cloven hooves because that's the first step on the road to turning into a devil." (I still won't glance at my feet on a stairwell.)

Then again, maybe I can't speak for all my siblings. Maybe it's just me.

Here's why I think that.

My dad Tom was raised on a farm in a tiny place called Corkery not far from Canada's national capital city of Ottawa, and his conversation was spiced with a broad collection of old Irish-isms (material for another blog). And though he seldom swore, he was very expressive.

Case in point: when some guy did something particularly idiotic, Tom said, "he's a dumb cluck."

Yesterday, something occured to me. I consulted one of my brothers, the older and smart Alex, and the following text exchange ensued:

Me: "Do you think that when dad called me a dumb cluck, he meant you're a dumb 'rhymes with cluck'?

Alex: "Yeah, so does everyone else."

Now that I think about it, Alex would make a far better martyr than me.




Saturday, July 21, 2018

5 Great Moments From A 5-Great-Lakes Odyssey

My daughter Ev and I arrived home tired and happy yesterday after a five-day bike trip during which we visited much of the state of Michigan and saw all five Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. I'd love to write a long story about why this was the best vacation a father could have, but that would only make people jealous. Heck, sometimes the stuff I get to do makes me jealous.

So instead, here're five highlights. (I may have to blog more on this adventure later.)

Highlight One. It was Ev who suggested we pull over to get a look at the giant Jesus at the Dinosaur Gardens Prehistoric Zoo, just outside Ossineke, Michigan. A little plaque near His Left Foot tells us that the founders of the park were devout Christians who saw no contradiction between dinosaurs and their view of creation. They just reckoned the "seven days" of creation that the bible goes on about is taken way too literally. My mom would have loved this place.

Highlight Two. The 1988 diesel-powered Bluebird bus sat alone and a bit sad in a field just east of Bay City, Michigan. Ev stopped and said, "Dad I know you love buses. We better go see it." Of course I'm glad we did and we learned it could be ours for a measly U.S.$3,200. My father--who with his brother Ed owned a fleet of buses when I was young--would have liked this bus as much as my mom would have liked the statue.

Highlight Three. Day two or three--I forget--we were looking for lunch and Ev noticed this homey place: The Big Ugly Fish Tavern. Upon entry, we were immediately told : a) There's no food  and, b) it's the best dive bar in Saginaw. "Google it!" the guy at the bar said. We did.  It is. Just like I said about my mom and the Jesus statue, every Carter I've ever met would have liked The Big Ugly Fish. In fact a few of the folks we saw in there looked like cousins.

Highlight Four. Jack the Dog we met at the Lakeshore Motel just north of Port Huron. The Lakeshore's owner Val  told me she recently adopted Jack after her sister's ex (who had been serving in Belgium) got re-assigned so had to find a new home for the pup. Jack comes from a long line of award-winning Belgian Border Collies, and Val said, "I can just imagine how proud his mom and dad are, knowing that their well-bred son has moved to America and is living up in Northern Michigan in a no-tell motel."

Highlight Five. See that map? It's a close approximation of our route. (I produced it myself, using my computer software skills.) See how the road goes a bit screwy in some places? That's because for pretty much the whole trip, Ev and I kept changing our destinations and our plans. My favourite switcheroo came on day four, after we made it to the very top of the state, headed for the Canadian border, which meant we'd loop  across the north side of Lake Huron, past Elliot Lake, Manitoulin, Sudbury and all those parts of the world we're so familiar with. Minutes before we arrived at the border, Ev and I made a U-ee and headed south instead, to explore a few more places we'd never been before.

Highlight Five, eh.  Michigan is a helmet-optional state. Because we're conscientious and mature, 99.9% of the time Ev and I kept our helmets in place and securely fastened. But when I decided I'd like this blog to contain at least one photo of us actually riding, turns out  my camera was trained on Ev only during that teensy weensy remaining 0.1%. What can I say?  All's well that ends.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Howzzis for a baby-boomer pick-up line? "What's your top-10 palliative-care discs?"

Early last week, my wife Helena and I went to see a friend, Dave, in the hospital. (Dave's not his real name, but what I'm about to tell you really happened.)
PALLIATIVE-CARE JOKES, REALLY? Yup. Really.

I was standing beside Dave's bed; Helena was sitting at its foot. She commented on how high-tech the bed was; with all sorts of switches, guages and little lights.

I looked down at Dave and said, "All these years Dave I figured you'd be going out in an electric chair, not an electric bed."

Dave sort of whisper-laughed and said. "Electric chair. That's funny."

And I was, like "yessssss!"

People who know me well might tell you I spend a lot of time trying to make people laugh. Never mind whether I'm successful or not.

Some might say the constant joking thing is as an attention-getting device. Which makes sense. After all, I was raised the youngest of 10 brothers and sisters. We're all pretty good at playing the what-I-have-to-say-is-way-more-entertaining-than-what-you-have-to-say game.  (I just remembered something. My friend Nigel Simms once observed that we Carters all employ the string-of-hyphenated-words-linked-together-as-an-adjective trick. An observant man, that Simms.)

Where was I?

Right. At Dave's bedside. What was particularly happy-making about that particular little electric-chair joke (Nigel was sure right, re: hyphens) was this. Dave is in palliative care.

You read that correctly.

He is not coming home. It's sad that he's so sick, and we'll miss having him around. However, soon his suffering will be over and I'm really glad we went to say bye.

But what I'm getting at is this.

I'm really happy with my electric-chair joke.

Here's why:

If you can make somebody laugh when they're in palliative, your work here is done.

Like it or not--all of us are going to have to get comfy with "palliative care" real soon. (I even wrote a song about it. Thank me for NOT posting it on YouTube.) Palliative care is going to be part of your life, sooner or later.

And about a week before our visit with Dave, I was driving in a car with a lawyer, writer, beer connoisseur and blogger named Edward Noble and he asked me what my 10 desert-island discs are. What records would I choose if they were to be the only ones I'd ever get to listen to?  ("Desert Island discs" is a great conversation starter, btw.)

But I'm never going to be on a desert island.

I will, however, wind up in Dave's slippers.

I will want to be cheered up.

So here, in no discernible order, are Pete'sBlog&Grille's Top-10 Palliative-Care picks.

Things that will make me laugh, when the going gets as tough as going gets.

10) First, lots of visits with family. These are key and when I assume Dave's position, please expect Google Map instructions to my bedside, from wherever you are. All Carters and MacIsaacs (my mom's maiden name) and McIntosh's are infected with that last-laugh gene. My cousin Don MacIsaac (the Don MacIsaac in Vancouver; not the D.M. in Germany) said "we could be on the phone with a cousin talkin' about how we're so depressed we've a loaded gun to our heads but by the end of the phonecall we'll be laughin' and talkin' about gettin' a drink together."

9) "Blazing Saddles."

8) Visits from almost any friends who know the best conversations are punctuated with laughter. Take Rodney Frost, in Orillia, for instance. He once pointed out that laughter accompanies discovery; Every conversation with Rodney is a voyage of discovery and when he and I talk on the phone, we don't say goodbye; we always end phonecalls the same way--in fits of laughter that make conversation simply impossible. I'm lucky enough to have several friends like Rodney. Nigel from back there in paragraph five is one.

7) "Young Frankenstein."

6) Speaking of horror movies, if you're scared of palliative care visits, get over it. Once you go to one palliative care ward, you'll be overcome by the sense of calm that pervades the place. I mean it. I've been to, I think, five, and they're all happy-making in a very strange way. If you know of somebody in palliative care, quitcherbellyachin and go see them. You think it's hard on you? Think about what it's like for them!

5) A few episodes of "One Foot In The Grave." The Eric Idle theme song alone's worth the price of admission.

4) Screw this list. It's beautiful out. Life is far too short for me to stay inside writing about palliative care.

Besides. You know what I'm talking about.

Laughter may not be the best medicine, but why shouldn't it be the last?


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Q&A with a retired stand-up comic

MEET OUR INSTRUCTOR:
"Teachin' Chong"
On Tuesday, June 19, 2018, I spent about 10 minutes on stage in the John Candy Theatre, doing a stand-up comedy sketch. It was the culmination of a six-week course at the 2nd City Comedy School, led by our teacher--a woman named Precious Chong, herself a stand-up and also the proud daughter of Tommy Chong--of Cheech&Chong fame.

What follows is a brief interview with myself about my short but exciting stand-up career. 

Q: What was the high point of your life in showbiz?
A: After I left the stage Tuesday, I nipped out to the lounge to grab a beer and I wanted to be in the audience for the rest of the show so I slipped into the theatre and much to my surprise and delight a tall slender woman with long black hair--I'd never laid eyes on her before--came over, threw her arms around me gave me a kiss on the cheek and said "I loved your material. You were great!"

Q: That really happen?
A: Sure did.

Q: Who do you think she was?
A: No idea. I'd heard comics have groupies, called--and I'm not making this up--"chuckle bunnies," but then I Googled that and it turns out chuckle bunnies are something else altogether. So she could have been, like, an undercover recruiter for the 2nd City Comedy school because I'm sure they wouldn't object if I signed up for another $300-and-change comedy course.

Q: So will you?
A: No. Mind you, if I did it wouldn't be the first "I'll-never-do-that-again" promise I broke within hours of making it.

Q: Any regrets?
A: I should have rehearsed.

Q: Du-uh. Anything else?
A: I forgot to use a scatological joke that I wrote involving self-defecating humour.

Q: Good. Anything else?
A: I felt a bit bad for stealing the "cowards run in our family" joke from my brother Alex but I'm over it.  Besides, what are brothers and sisters for?

Q: Any chance you went to all this expense and trouble just to post that "teachin' Chong" pun?
A: I'd put money on it.

Q: Do you ever get tired of talking about yourself?
A: You wish.

  

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Going out not with a whimper but with a Banksy

BY GEORGE WARNER's protest paintings
is exactly where I found myself
There is a big art show going on right now in a gallery that Google says is a 15-minute walk from my house. According to a beautifully composed story by the Toronto Star visual-arts critic Murray Whyte in this morning's paper, tickets to the show are $35 and the organizers have already sold 50,000 tickets.

The story also mentions the show runs until July 11.

However.

On another page of the same newspaper, a full-page ad in the front section tells us the show, called the Art of Banksy, has been extended to August 19.

I'm pretty sure the discrepancy exists because the entertainment section of the paper was printed a few days before the front section, and the ad came in late.

And I'm telling you this only to remind you that we here at Pete's Blog & Grille know a thing or two about how journalism works. After all, we've been at it for more than 30 years.

But you sure wouldn't have believed that if you were with us, rather me, yesterday around 7:00 p.m.

You'd have thought, "He's lost it. Like the guy in A Beautiful Mind minus the math skills."
Purtygood writin' huh?

Here's why.

I was very close to home in my wife Helena's black VW Beetle; the radio was tuned to this country's best radio news show, As It Happens (AIH).

How good is AIH? It's been on-air since 1968. When I was in journalism school, I'm pretty sure most of us students thought landing a job on AIH would be like winning an Olympic gold.

An AIH trademark? On-air interviews with people within the very heart of breaking stories around the globe. The host would talk to, like, IRA rebels in a Belfast tavern or some Sandinista hostage-takers in a Managua, Nicaragua, bank. Or maybe a junkie poet a rich rock star ripped lyrics off from. Very compelling journalism.

I recall clearly the day one of our reporting teachers brought in a guest speaker named Lloyd Tataryn who--drumroll here--worked for AIH and, more importantly for me--more drumroll--came from my hometown of Sudbury.

For me, that single visit drew open the curtains on a world of possibilities.

Jump ahead now to yesterday, when AIH host Carole Off was interviewing Toronto artist George Warner.

Warner had sort of photo-bombed the big Banksy exihibit by staging his own art show, on a fence across the street.
DID I FORGET? The Banksy show was actually robbed.
True fact!!


He was protesting because he thought the Banksy show is emblematic of everything wrong with the Toronto art scene--it's rife with pretense, grant money goes to the wrong people; it's a snooty game--you know the arguments. I really don't have an opinion on the matter.

What I do feel strongly about is me having fun.

So I turned around and headed to the gallery. I was going to drive slowly by, roll down my window, yell "Hi and by George," beep the little Volkswagen horn and because that was George's voice coming from the dashboard speaker, and this is where it gets freaky--I'd hear me on the radio.

I got to the gallery. I saw the art on the fence.  Warner was easy to spot. He stood beside the paintings, wearing--I love this--a black leather kilt.

There was, of course, no interviewer in sight.

Because. That's. How. Radio. Works. And I've known it since...

Remember Tataryn from back up there in paragraph nine? I'd be lying if I didn't tell you he sort of burst my bubble when he told us that most AIH interviews seldom happened as we heard them. They took place earlier in the day.

Which is something I completely forgot driving to see George Warner.

I pulled over anyway.  Beeped the horn. I rolled down the window and out flew a lifetime's worth of professional credibility.




Tuesday, June 5, 2018

10 reasons I'm a stand-up guy

"Dad!," my daughter Ev said,  "You gotta do this."

That was two months ago. She'd just finished her seven-minute-and 44-second stand-up comedy routine at Second City, in downtown Toronto. 

EV AT SECOND CITY: Her grandparents would be beaming.
Ev had taken a six-week course (three hours a week) after which  the students climbed on stage to wow us with their performances. (Want to see Ev's? Click here")  

I did as I was told. 

So, on Tuesday, June 19, 2018, A.D., I will be on stage. Alone. With microphone in hand.  I'm four weeks in to the course and, even though I have no idea what's going to happen when I actually do my act, I thought I would share 10 reasons--in no particular order in fact I'm not even sure I'll get to 10--why this weird turn of events has been one of the best adventures ever.

1. For the past few weeks I've been able to spend three hours every Thursday evening with the other students; 10 or 11 (I'm too lazy to count) of the funniest individuals I've met. Think about it. These are people who want to be stand-up comics. We've got two advertising executives, at least one lawyer, one high-school teacher (oh baby Jesus where was a teacher like this when I needed him?), and OUR teacher is a woman named Precious Chong, whose father is Tommy Chong, of the comedy duo Cheech and Chong. 

2. When you come from a family like mine, this sort of thing is heaven-sent. Different families reward various achievements; some parents favour high marks; others like hard work and stick-to-it-iveness. In the Carter household, making people laugh was as important as food. April Fool's Day is a high holiday. Also. In a church-going household like ours, the only fact you know for sure is, anything's possible. Including the possibility that when the course ends and I get to take the stage, my late mother and father will be watching from heaven.  I realize that the thought of your dead folks being able to see you from heaven is seriously creepy--"can she really see me? even when I'm the bathroom??" but never mind that for a moment. I want to make them proud.

3. My Second-City show will make my older brother Alex jealous, a fact that pleases me immensely.  When we were young, Alex starred in quite a few high-school productions that I watched with envy and admiration. The only dramatic production I ever got a part in was the Sudbury Secondary School presentation of "David and Lisa", a weird old play that takes place in a mental asylum. I landed the very minor role of Simon--the challenged, mysteriously gendered and lonely flute player, which was lots of fun for Alex, because in real life I didn't get a lot of dates, my name, Peter, is actually based on the name Simon (look it up) and I did take flute lessons and, well, moving right along... 

4. I just remembered something. Our "David and Lisa" never got performed. For some reason, our theatre arts teacher decided it wasn't to be a stage show but rather a video production and even though we spent hours and hours in the studio with cameras and everything, a final "David and Lisa" never materialized.  Not that I've been carrying this around with me, but once in a while I'll be watching late-night TV and see the name "Kevin White" in the credits as an executive producer of something; and that's the same name as one of the kids in our production--I think he was David--  and when that credit rolls across the screeen; I wonder why my name's not up there.

5. Think about it for a second. Growing up the youngest of five boys and hearing, from the time you're born, that your older brothers are all so good looking or bright. My next oldest brother Eddie was on the Sudbury Secondary School Reach for the Top Team; the eldest, Pat, was so clever he skipped grade seven; Tom had a sports car and could play the trumpet like nobody, and when he was in grade 10 Alex was once on local TV for some reason and my best friend Trevor MacIntyre's mom saw him and said "your brother's so handsome!"  

6. One time, Eddie was tapped to play a solo on his Fender MusicMaster electric guitar with the Sudbury Secondary School Orchestra behind him and when the conductor Linda Brault introduced him, she said something along the lines of, "this guitarist might just be a boy from the west of end of Sudbury but he plays like he's got southern blues in his soul."  

7. Did I mention that I was also the shortest of the bunch?

8. But back to Second City.  I also have five sisters. Which reminds me that in Carterland, we don't converse; we compete. Two days ago, my sister Norma and I had this very discussion on the phone.  She was going on about something and I admitted to her I wasn't actually listening to what she was saying as much as I was waiting for her to be done so I could say something more interesting than what she had to offer and she asked me if I was done yet. If you think I'm kidding, you don't know my sisters. 

9. Now I'm really scared. I'm thinking, halfway through my performance, I'm going to be looking out in the audience and I'll hear somebody say,  "Pete, do you have a comb?"  I'm not sure who first came up with this but when we were growing up, if one sibling interrupted the other with "do you have a comb?" it meant "what you're saying is really boring." 

10. No, I don't have a comb. 




Saturday, May 19, 2018

Tasting the dragon

I looked over at my wife Helena, in the passenger seat.
PETE'S A FAN: Gettit? Pizza fan. Never mind.
The guy at Marconi's even  looked
and talked like Don.

"I'm pretty excited," I said calmly.

 "You might," she warned, "be disappointed."

 Me: "I know."

That exchange took place at 2:10 this afternoon. I'm not joking about being excited, not one bit. As weird as this might sound, we were on our way to a place called Marconi's Pizzeria, and I'd been fantasizing about the trip--way more than you might consider healthy-- since April.

Here's why.

Back in mid-April, I was editing away at my new job when my cell buzzed. The caller I.D. read: "Roman."

Roman Stankiewiecz. I've known him since--I believe--grade one. The Stankiewieczes--they had six kids and Roman was my age--grew up on Whittaker Street, one block west of the house where we Carters lived.

And although Roman and I have kept in contact-ish, it's not like we see each other regularly. We've gone for years without talking. So when his name came up on my screen midday like that, I got a little worried. We're at that age, right?

I stood and walked into the office kitchen area so I could take the call in private

I wasn't taking notes but I can recap with some accuracy what he said, and it was this:  "Pete. How ya doin'? Listen. Mike said I had to call you." I knew right away he was referring to Mike Blondin, another guy we've known since grade two. His mom had four sons, Bill, John, Joe and Mike, who was my age, and they lived up on Stanley Street, a few blocks north of Roman.

"Mike and I just had pizza at this place called Marconi's near Cawthra and Burnhamthorpe and you know what Pete?

"It is almost as good as Don's!"

I could almost hear the exclamation mark.

Pizza comparable to Don's. That  is well worth the alarming mid-day phone call from an old friend.

When we were growing up in Sudbury, out of a little renovated garage half a block south and another half block east of our house, our classmate Paul Uguccioni's father Don ran Don's Pizzeria; and for us west end Sudbury kids, Don's pizzas set the standard by which all subsequent pizzas would be measured.

Don's little pizza shop as we knew it moved to a bigger, fancier location some time when we were in high school. And then it changed hands. And although there's still a Don's Pizzeria in Sudbury, I cannot vouch for it one way or the other.

ME,TREV, ROMAN,&MIKE, 5 YEARS AGO: Some things
never change, like the jean jacket I'm wearing in both pics. 
All I know is that original pizza experience is something that a lot of old west-enders have been searching for more than half a century.

When Roman called me, he also happened to mention that it was me--all those years ago--who introduced him to pizza, at Don's. When he told me, I was really touched. Then a few weeks later, I was telling our other friend Trevor MacIntyre about the call, and he said the same thing. He hadn't had pizza until he and I went to Don's together. I felt honoured, like I'd led them on their first lion hunt or something.

And Trevor reminded me we used to split a small pizza with just sauce and cheese, and it cost 95 cents. By our reckoning, we were probably in grade four.

Grade four. Going to a pizza shop by ourselves. I just realized something else. I spelled Paul Uguccioni's surname right on my first try. And I haven't written that name for decades. Now that I'm thinking about it, not only were Paul, Mike, me, Roman and Trevor friends, we were altar boys together; we played scrub baseball together and all grew up in this funky Sudbury neighbhourhood and we were able to "hang out" at the local pizzeria when we were, like, 10 years old. Unsupervised. Maybe there's something beyond Don's distinctive tomato sauce and spices flavouring my memories. Just maybe.

I'm not the kind of guy who hearkens back to the good old days, because like my dad used to say, "the best thing about the good old days is that they're gone" Our childhood days were anything but blissful and innocent; we just like to think they were, which is probably a good thing.

But never mind that.

Since those Don's Pizza days, Roman, Trev, me and Mike have done some stuff and been a few places. A lot of pizza has been consumed. And with every bite--it turns out--we've been comparing whatever was at hand to that original, perfect, Don's.

My quest for pizza as good as Don's once took me to downtown Rome, Italy.  A Newfoundlander named Keith Something and I went to so many pizza joints and drank so much red wine one night that before passing out we followed the ancient Roman orgiastic tradition of hurling everything we'd eaten and drank back into the Tiber River. I recall the guy whose restaurant we'd just exited standing behind us, yelling in Italian. I think he felt insulted.

When I told Trevor about Roman's mid-afternoon call about Marconi's, he said he'd been searching for pizza as good as Don's, too. But he put it this way:

"It's sorta been like chasing the dragon, hasn't it?"

And that's why I was so excited driving out to Marconi's this afternoon.

If Monty Python were making a movie about our trek to Marconi's they would have clapped coconut shells together. Pizza as good as Don's has been our holy grail.

MARCONI'S BILL OF FARE: If Don's had one, it
mighta looked like this.
Arriving at the strip mall parking lot, I felt a bit giddy. Like I imagine my devoutly Catholic mom would have been, pulling into the parking lot at, maybe, Lourdes.

We walked toward the storefront. Pizza boxes were stacked 15-high. Very Don-ish. The grey-haired aproned guy who greeted us from behind the flour-covered counter could have been Don for Pete's sakes. This bordered on eerie.

The proprietor (son in law of the original owner) served it to our table.

Helena burnt her mouth on the first bite. (Reminded me of a joke my daughter Ev told me: "Did you hear about the hipster who burnt his mouth? He ate pizza before it was cool.")

So far, so good as Don's.

As tempting as it smelled, I waited. Maturely, I might add.

Then I took a bite. And a second.

The crust was thin and moist. The ratio of tomato sauce to mozzerella? Perfect. Not too heavy on the spices and completely devoid of any designer-pizza fakery like broccoli.

Marconi's Pizza is really really good. This was one of the best pizzas I have ever had in my life.

Roman's assesment was 100-percent accurate. Marconi's pizza is, "almost" as good as Don's.

The quest continues.