Creative Nonfiction Funny Adventure

The impending challenges that burdened the trek across the border eased with timely reconciliation to my new land. Swept up in the migratory tide to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and suitably ensconced two years later, I now share the experience to assuage the many others in similar transit.

I had been renting in adjacent Toronto and sought to purchase at hand, but real estate values hovering just north of the Pole Star motivated a search elsewhere. I thus set forth for “Steel Town”, the gritty, industrial neighbor to Toronto’s west.

The boundary between the municipalities is as palpable as the mills upon which Hamilton was built, the cultures as different as chalk and cheese. How I have managed to flump nicely in said circumstance is best understood in context, so I wind back the clock to begin.

My journey actually originated decades prior on the east side of meager Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada, in a very ethnic, working class neighborhood, essentially a ‘Little Italy’. Its laborers, factory and skilled trades workers, former miners and soldiers, all began their lives in poverty and hardship.. My father, for example, took to laboring at age twelve, eventually emigrating to Canada to work in factories. Though mind numbing, alienating, and soul crushing, never once did he complain about his toils. My father was a Man of Steel.

 With that as a measure, his older brother was of Kryptonite. One day, the story goes, while working at his garden in Villa Santa Lucia, Abruzzo, Italy, Uncle Tony was delivered a draft notice. He immediately ceased and departed, only to soon find himself a prisoner of the British, and remained so for five years. Often near death by malnutrition, he survived by proving himself useful to his captors as a mechanic. The moment he returned home from the war he proceeded directly to his garden, picked up his shovel from where it remained untouched and proceeded farming, barely uttering a word thereafter about his ordeal.

And then, there is my mother. At least as strong willed as her husband and brother in law, she to this day remains the only person in the world of whom I am fearful.

Being of Italian heritage in Port Colborne east I was not alone, and felt safe in an otherwise intimidating environment. And make no mistake, it was a tough place, I mean, as Charlie Callas quipped about his town, you could walk ten blocks and never leave the scene of a crime. But I was always alright, thanks to acquaintances, really tough guys, like Ape, The Bear and “Lucky” Tony Testadurra, so designated for one day while assisting at his father’s construction site had an anvil fall on his head and the anvil broke.

I was tagged “Noodle” or “Joey Noodles”, in acknowledgment of my academic abilities and also because I was considered otherwise soft. So, the deal became that I helped the guys with school and they watched out for me. I marveled, for example, at how often disappearing bikes, hockey sticks or patio furniture would mysteriously reappear intact. They knew the neighborhood and the neighborhood knew us and me.

All told, my parents, peers and immersion in street culture schooled me in vigilance, humility, respect and discretion, while my literacy skills primed me for analysis and rhetoric, a weave forging, among other things, an acute ability to size a person or situation at the drop of a hat.

So now, decades later and in a cut throat housing market, my lawyer, not unfamiliar with my story, put me in touch with a “friend” of his that I would be “comfortable” with and who would “take care” of me in my pursuit of a home.

Understanding that real estate dealing had become wildly lucrative I ventured that many were leaving their usual professions to become agents, and upon meeting Rico, replete with a Lanieri suit, Bruno Magli shoes and a Borsalino fedora masking eagle baldness, I figured him exhibit A.

With Rico, everything was a drama or secret. A typical conversation would be;

“ Interesting place Rico. What do you think about it?”

 “Listen Joey”, he would say while looking suspiciously over each shoulder, “this is what we’re gonna do...”

He was always telling me what we were “gonna do.”

“You’re gonna walk out the door and turn right and walk down three blocks, see? Then, you’re gonna go into the back alley and go twenty feet and stop”.

“What? Really?”

“Listen, just listen”, he would direct me with a clasp of my upper arm while pointing at me with his other hand, “A black car’s gonna pull up after five minutes.”

“Ya, your car.”

“Never mind whose car, you just get in for a little sit down with everyone.”

“Who’s everyone? There’s just us.”

“Never mind, now that’s what we’re gonna do.”

I humored him and respected his rituals and nostalgia. My suspicions on what his real lifestyle actually was were confirmed 

 when after mentioning to someone my agent was Rico they rejoined with “Rico The Cue Ball? He’s out now?” Indeed.

Anyway, just like the fellas from back home, Rico protected me from being taken advantage of but he was hardly proactive. So, when it came to prospecting homes I had to fend for myself, finally zeroing in on a property in the small neighborhood of Homeside in east Hamilton.

It was love at first sight with an east side Portuguese beauty. Having more crosses than the Calvary, circumvented with the finest concrete this side of the Pantheon and finished upstairs and down, this masterpiece was my desire.

Despite strict legal restrictions securing confidentiality during the offering process, Rico managed to advise with curious precision

(“I like a thousand more...”) and she was soon mine.

Homeside consists of modest size homes closely crammed on narrow streets and dating predominantly from the nineteen forties to the eighties. No two homes are alike, and there are small parks and walkways dispersed throughout making for interesting walking tours. All that, along with its numerous “mom and pop” businesses, give a Homeside an authentic neighborhood feel.

Immediately upon arrival I made a point of it to circulate and get to know the locals. Handshakes, smiles, invitations, sharing of garden bounty and a beer or two now and again began that process effectively. Correspondingly, life was quite good for many months and then, well, a certain someone moved on to the street and here we come to the crux of this tale...

“WOW! What is that?!” I shouted to myself in my inner voice one day. “Can it be a...Lamborghini?”

It was! A jet black Lamborghini, set directly in front of the most recent sale on the street, and on the sidewalk was our newest neighbor whom I approached hoping to introduce myself.

Upon my nearing to within a few meters of him, his attention was instead drawn to Sal, our local councilor, approaching from the opposite direction and coming to welcome our new resident. I approached closely while the fellow addressed Sal.

“Is this a dedicated parking spot?” he asked straightaway.

A curious question, with a tone of expectation inconsistent with the absence of reserved spaces signage.

I already figured what this guy was about and where he was coming from, and this first encounter continued to degenerate. Although we were already acquainted, Sal didn’t even look at me let alone do the introductions. His concerns were in politicking with someone apparently more important.

“Fine, Sallie”, I thought, because I also understand the character and priorities of those with title and ambition.

So, I left them only with the same information with which I began, that buddy had a Lamborghini, and he thus became “Lambo”.

So, we have an arrival who is not interested in introducing themselves and feels entitled. If not checked, the course is inevitable and in a few weeks - not more because they wouldn’t be able to bite their tongue for that long, and not less because they need some time to accumulate evidence against others and

let their anger build - they will make a poorly judged, selfish, arrogant move. Guaranteed.

So I, and my neighbors, waited.

Eventually, as my street sense prophesied, the day came.

One afternoon upon returning from work and checking my mailbox as per usual there was, low and behold, a note:

Can everyone take care when around my Lamborghini? And, can you better supervise it? I have seen some of you just walk away while people passing through the area stop to look at it. And, there have been marks on it - fingerprints and scratches. Please do this because it seems anyone can park anywhere and so when others use the spot in front of my house and I have to park elsewhere and cannot always watch out for it.


Apparently Lambo was oblivious to facts like that in our neighborhood many can not afford to have a car, let alone have a luxury one. As for damage, well, welcome to life and public spaces.

 Self absorbed and disrespectful, Lambo had erected a barrier between us and him. Could this just be jealousy on our parts? Not likely, for we are not communists, after all. We understand that some have more because they made their bones in good faith through education and hard work. We were once ready to hear Lambo’s story and celebrate his achievements, new home and fancy toys, but not any longer.

As no one was going to respect Lambo’s letter he was certainly going to have follow up in likely an even more inappropriate communication.

Sure enough, in due time, it also came.

Lambo apparently escalated his concerns to Sallie the Councilman and Sallie, during a town hall meeting, says to us:

Can you please not use the parking spot in front of _______’s house except as a last resort?

A “last resort”? On a public street? So much for leadership. The last thing he should be doing is playing favorites.

Well, that pretty much charted Lambo’s future and it wasn’t going to be bright. You see, Lambo’s and Sallie’s requests were unjust. Not in the legal sense, but socially and politically. That justice would be served there was no doubt, only its form was as yet unknown.


Objectively, a long time passed, a few weeks. However in the timing and logic of the street it was just right because you never want someone to see it coming. 

One fine morning Lambo stepped out to his precious curbside spot only to find that someone had gone medieval on the arse of his beloved Lamborghini - and no one knew anything about what happened.

Many years ago, in the initial days of my first full time teaching gig, I would tag along with three other male staff to a nearby mall for lunch and we would gather at a four-seated round table.

Each day, they insisted I sit in the same chair, one facing a blank cement wall, instead of in one of the others that had a better view of the mall. So I asked colleague Bob, who consistently occupied the seat with the best vista, what was up with this and he said that over time my position would get better. Prying further, I asked how long it would be before I had his seat, to which he replied, “Ten years." 

I understood that, you see, because of my upbringing and its immersion in codes of honor, respect and manners. Acceptance, respect and privilege are things earned, not just granted because you show up, or just taken because you want it or are used to it from having had it somewhere else.

So, prospective settlers, we in the highly sought Homeside area await you with open minds and arms and we trust that you will bring the manners, care and appreciation worthy of our community. 

See you soon!

May 28, 2021 22:28

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