We went down in the biblical sense to the city again. My wife and I. She went with me, in a womanly way, knowing that her husband was seeking to capture some things that are lost and I was conscious of the nadir, perhaps the knell, of a micro culture that faded before my eyes. Life slips through our fingers. It is not unlike cupping your hands and dipping them into a stream to bring forth water and sip it, cold and fresh, like truth, and have most of it escape back to the expanse and flow of the greater meaning. Perhaps I took a last good swig of the things I loved and the hell of it was that I almost pulled up and did not need to drink.
I spoke with mine Old Testament Woman; my Sarai of the golden laughter on the way down and I told her that I was not sure I needed to go this year, to North York, to our old world of memory, to a place where a President celebrates the thousands of litres of wine, sold in pails. This all a whirlwind, nod of last year, documented, the way thinkers must say goodbye to the taunts of their observations.
It would be more appropriate to say: “O Mother of God” or “Dio!” but all I can articulate, as a Canadian man of your so-called Third Generation of adopted immigrant sons and daughters is, in the dialect of mine own strangetude: “Geez.”
I knew my wife, she was coming with me, but for me. I saw concession in her eyes and behind that the simple sparkle of long-love’s joyous embers. To have that is to have everything. Those who know what love is know this. I saw that she too, knew it was the time of Nadir, our Lamentations, and like a fool of a memory-possessed man, I did not totally understand that before we left. As we were driving and as I spoke, I realized our Spirits were and are perhaps one, going down into the city. And if she had said yes to my question, I might have turned around and we might have gone grocery shopping, which is a beautiful date in the mundane Life of Easy-Love.
We drove south by a different route and I reprised the tidal pool and by 9:30 saw the cars, the men and a few women with their men, watching while wine-humpers loaded pails into trunks. A few men were experts and had the where- with-all to bring green garbage bags to avoid stains on the interior of their trunks. I was frankly surprised at the old men who did not bring bags, and simply let the wine-men load them up with pails that bled juice from fermenting holes punctured into the lids. I supposed these men were widowers and living their own Nadir of Life itself. I looked at them carefully.
I would have to say, there was no “joy” in the group. All were intent on the task, there was a lot of in-and-out, a lot of traffic, and people seemed to just come and then go. There was utterly no sense of community. It was damp and dismal, with rain like mist and it all felt like a dirge that was not literary or of mine own design….it felt like a dirge in the grayness of the moment of chore.
There were some good attempts at merriment. We came later, but not late. Even that was a sign. I used to want to be there before nine, when the iron gate was still closed, before the BBQ was fired up, the sausages on, and the clear big bags of bambini-buns pre-cut. I did not mind arriving when we arrived. There was hubbub, but not too much hubbub. There were not many of my Old Italian characters present, we were again, my wife and I, perhaps the youngest there and I looked around in wonder. Mother of god. I swear. Così Sia and all that. The smoke from the BBQ rose and there was a young guy tending grill and the old grumpy guy was nowhere to be found this year. The boy was a millennial, and handsome and wanting to serve and get it right and I could see he has been raised well.
I opened the door for my wife and we stepped down into the store. They did it differently this year and I have to give them points. To our left was a long table with five different wines: rosé, two reds and two whites, all made on the premises, with good samples to sip. A huge porchetta was laid out and a Filipino man held court and cut it and a woman shredded it and loaded picolito buns with the meat. There was a jar of hot sauce that my wife, she liked, and even asked if they sold it, but it was the last of last year’s batch. I didn’t think it was anything to write home about, to be honest, but it is rare that my wife enquires about these things, and I liked that.
There were three men ahead of us, and one ordered ten pails and he was not really Italian. He was an old guy but he was not really Italian. The guy behind him was and the man in front of me, I imprinted on and chatted with, but my Italian is not that good and he was Old Enough now, in Our Lamentations, to let his English perish. There is no need to use the adopted tongue in Twilight.
The cross woman was again, perennially, at the till, and we observed her be brusque with the old man, who leaned into her and gestured with his fingers that he wanted two-not-four boxes of sauvignon (and the other, jeezis crist). She corrected the “data” on her screen and should have been so much gentler with him. I loved him to pieces but he ignored me mostly. Later, when a van was backing in, I warned him to get out of the way and I helped the straw-boss see him and get his order into his car. He never knew I looked out for him and to me, it does not matter either way, but let’s just say I loved him. I know it is crazy to say this to you.
My wife, she was shy and shnibbled at my porchetta and, under protest, took wine at 10 in the morning, but I had had three samples by that time. I asked the Asian woman if they had any hats or tee-shirts this year and she proceeded to the box we pre-located in the corner of our roving eye and began to dole out hats along the line. This year, she was liberal and distributed one each to us. Last year we had to fight with her. My wife and I realized why the change when we noted the hats were of inferior quality…. cheesy is what we say, in our dialect. We decided we would give them to our daughter and her beau, for leaf-raking and to maintain our sweetheart’s half-breed heritage: what I call “the old guy Italian gardening hat.” It is sad to get two cheesy black caps but I have to be gentle and forgive, for I could see they were going deluxe, delightful and delicious on the food-front. I really didn’t need another tee-shirt this year and it made me sad to no longer lust after them.
We bought our pail of ready-to-drink and stood outside in the drizzle and I helped that old guy a bit. We ate another sausage and I offered to go inside and put some hot sauce on it. My wife, she declined and I never knew why. I sensed she was not comfortable. She did wind up having bites of mine and I love that, sort of.
In the wet of our Lamentations, I saw not many men of character and I just mean I did not see many Old Italian guys. There was a wife who came and I said buon giorno to her and she smiled at me, but again, for the most part we were witness to a kind of dirge.
I liked the Spanish straw-boss and he was efficient and orderly and fair and called out all of us in our righteous turn. Cars came in and left and he told me to bring mine in and I did. We brought two garbage bags, and the Filipino man, who was an old guy, nodded assent and I felt like, at least, I knew how to load a pail of wine into my trunk. Mother of God. My father-in-law tot me to do it, because my mother-in-law would not abide by wine stains on the rug of the trunk. The women are behind the scenes but Mother of Mary, they so Know how the ancient order works.
I felt bad. I felt bad for the fourth generation of millennials, the children of my loins, for their pride in their “data” and their faux power of knowledge-gathering: how they listen to myriad music on Spotify and open the Pandora’s box of velocity. I am sure that all of them, literally, do not even see the lamentations of their parents, nor would they see the lamentations of one, wandering memory – Fool.
But I saw the fractal of the new world today with my wife. When we loaded up, I couldn’t really let go. I opened the car for her and returned with a picante sausage with her hot sauce on it and a thimble of wine. I had some left over aqua sporca from the drive down and we fused our tastes.
In the rain we drove off, made a left, another left and finally, a right, to tack north into the drizzle and make our way to the grocery store away from the city. Later, I decanted the wine for our children and our friends in the ancient order of the contadini. It is the way I have been taught.
Glenn Carley is the author of the urban opera, Polenta at Midnight: Tales of Gusto and Enchantment in North York (Vehicule Press, 2007), and a regular contributor to Accenti. His creative non-fiction, Good Enough From Here, was published by Rock’s Mills Press (March 2020). He resides in Bolton, Ontario, with his family (Gcarley@rogers.com).