Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? Last month, blogger Carmi Levy wrote an article about homelessness that struck a chord. I'm far from Canadian.
In the past week, Rupert Crowell of The Independent of London, conveyed to his readers one of the reasons behind why I wrote this book — the whispers of promise after a long siege of decline. And therein, perhaps, lies its real significance for bruised and demoralised middle America, wondering whether pre-recession prosperity can ever return.
Thanks, Jim, at Burgh Diaspora. I was taught to dance a csardas and to sing Christmas carols in Slovak. The Italians held festivals and parades for San Rocco Days. The musical Tamburitzans rose to fame out of the Croatian community.
Most importantly, though, we preserved our cultural identity through food. At home, housewives might experiment with modern food, but the kitchens in church basements and parochial schools turned out food from the Old Country.
For me, the melding of food and religion came together on meatless Fridays. I stood up and set the bowl in the sink while checking the kitchen counter for my lunch box.
There would be no packed lunch today. How could Friday sneak up on me like this? My father sat quietly, drawing profiles of beautiful women in the margins of his daily crossword, his usual morning meditation. We Czechs and Slovaks had our own word. Even though Milt would happily pay for my lunch, he insisted that I ask, as part of a larger lesson about money.
He smiled and dug into his front pocket, coming up with a fistful of change. He held out a calloused hand and reminded me take enough for milk.
He was three years older. My father whistled low in mock-disbelief and snapped each coin on the Formica table one at a time. Betty jerked away from the counter where she had been buttering toast, annoyed by the snapping of the coins.
Mark kissed her and she handed him a glass of grape juice. He downed it, grabbed the change and two slices of toast. Tearing off half a slice with each bite, he remembered to say thanks, then kissed my father on the lips. We all kissed on the lips; to do otherwise would have been cold and distant.
He shook it off, and after a hurried round of kisses, we headed out the back door on a typical Friday morning, going off to school with more freedom than the other days of week.
None of the Catholic schools provided everyday lunches, but their churches raised money with pirohi, or pierogi, or pirozhki. On Friday, without lunchboxes or bags I had a free hand with which to gesture and swat, pick up pebbles and throw them at street signs on our way to the bus stop.
Streets in the neighborhood ran like creeks to a river that was the main road.
Out of the tiny households came kids with an array of European surnames—Marcia Sokil, with her fine and even Ukrainian features, would get off the bus at Sts.
Stanislaus, Bobby Cipriani at St. Swaying like a drunk around the corner, the bus skidded onto the gravel shoulder.
It was a heap, an eyesore even in its industrial surroundings. The city buses, with fare boxes, shiny handrails, outdated billboards and cables for requesting a stop, were like rolling funhouses.
In contrast, the coaches were dark and quiet, with overhead luggage racks and high, reclining seats that were threadbare and torn. All the buses had rusty floorboards with holes big enough to see the road, but too small to lose a foot through, and gearboxes that just caught.Rust Perforation Coverage applies to perforation due to corrosion only.
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