Tuesday, December 24, 2019

I is for Italian

Sometimes when I can’t get to sleep at night, I alphabetize lists in my head: Places I’ve flown to; models of cars I’ve driven; people’s names that go naturally together: Alex & Brenda (My brother and sister-in-law); Chuck &  Di, Eddie & Flo, and like that.
LITTLE ITALY: Cultivated gardens and lots'n'lots of wine

Invariably, I nod off before I get anywhere near the tail end of the alphabet.

And here’s something you might find surprising, the more challenging the list, the more effective it is at putting me to sleep.

One night a few weeks ago, I set the alphabetizing bar at an unprecedented level. Said I to myself:  “When you were growing up in the west end of Sudbury, Peter, you sure knew a lot of Italians.  I bet you could do an alphabetical list of their surnames.”

I’m not making up a word of this.


First one was easy: Anselmo. Tony Anselmo.  A few years older than me but from the same side of town, Tony Anselmo became something of a well-loved local character because he eventually owned a very popular hangout on Elm Street, the Records On Wheels store.

Second?  Easier.  Bortolussi.  Alfredo. My very first day in grade one, they sat us in alphabetical order and I found myself behind named a kid named Alfredo Bortolussi and then — I find this hard to believe — he and I not only finished grade eight at St. Albert's, we were altar boys at St. Clement’s Church; we both attended St. Charles boys’ school then switched to Sudbury Secondary school and then and then…Fred and I went to Carleton university in Ottawa!

I haven’t seen Fred in ages. I heard he's a teacher. Must have enjoyed school more than I ever did.

But I sure like him. Have since grade one.

C? Another minimal brainer. Ciccolini. Michael to be specific. 
 LPs them what LPs themselves
 I probably didn’t spell his surname right but wouldn’t be surprised if I did.

He, too, was an altar boy and I remember once many years later when I was home visiting from Carleton, my folks took me out to a restaurant called the Silver Beach Tavern, and Mike--I think he was the head waiter or owner or something--brought some wine to the table and said, “This is way better than that homemade stuff we used to swipe from my dad when we were kids, eh Pete?” (Just what my parents needed to hear.  Thanks, Mike.)

That’s one of the things about the Italians. All their dads made wine. Lots and lots of wine.  It was no big deal for the kids to have wine with meals.

Another thing? All of the Italian guys had terrific-looking sisters. In fact, my brother Alex married one of them. But I digress.



Putting a whole bunch of west-end Sudbury Italian names in alphabetical order was way easier than I thought. Maybe that’s why they call it the Roman alphabet. Hahahaaha!

Fabbro. Fabbros were everywhere. Joe Fabbro was mayor for goodness’ sake. And remember I talked about being an altar boy? One of the older altar boys was Ron Fabbro, who must have been the Kahwi Leonard of altar boys because he is now a Roman Catholic bishop, in London, Ont.

Galardo and Grottoli. I have to use two G names because according to the rules of my mental alphabetizing game, if you can’t come up with a name that corresponds to the next letter, you have to find two that work with the previous letter, and I’m pretty sure I'll never find an Italian surname beginning with H. 

Okay, Gallo, too, because I got nothing for I either.

Speaking of, I will be passing Roy Gallo’s house tomorrow when I visit my sister Norma who lives on the same street that Roy grew up on. It’s one of Sudbury's tonier (ha-ha) neighbourhoods.

Which reminds me of something else.

Not only did all the Italian guys all have pretty sisters, their houses and yards were meticulously maintained, with colourfully painted wood trim and flourishing gardens. Which is all the more astonishing because so many of their dads had at least two jobs: one at INCO, the huge mining company, and another at their own family business.

Did those guys ever stop working? When did they find time to make wine?

I bet that when they hit the sack, they never had to make up dumb head games to help them nod off.

I’m stopping here.

Not only do I forget what point I was trying to make but it was me I was trying to put to sleep, not you!

Buon Natale!

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