Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese Wheel Cut in Half

The cheese already cut, unfortunately, and the trunk was not insulated! Will I say more about this? I’ll try.

I have told this story before, more than a couple of times too, however, I don’t know if I have it in me to write about it properly. So here I am, I’m going to give it a try now… well, we will soon see if I can follow through.

It was on our trip to California back in ’51, six of us, crammed into a brand new Fraser automobile, Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Nana, and us two kids. Surprisingly, we all fit, the car was a really big sedan and had that new car smell. Well, not for very long!

You see, Grandpa was the owner of a grocery store in the Little Italy part of our home town, and he had lots and lots of business friends in the area. There was the fresh Chicken store, the Deli and Bakery stores, and the Cheese store too. I think the owner of the Cheese store was a very good friend of Grandpa because he gave him a really big round wheel of cheese, probably was the Parmigiano Reggiano kind. Covered in black wax to protect it I guess, however, something drove Grandpa to cut it open for a taste test, or maybe he gave a small chunk to a friend of his, I don’t know, and why is not really important to the story anyway.

The trip took nine days in August to get to California from Massachusetts; you saw that it was August, right? Hot August, sometimes humid August, sometimes dry August, but always HOT August! Did I mention that air conditioners were not a normal part of cars back then, no I don’t think I did. Did I mention that it wasn’t really considered important to insulate the trunk of a car back then? Nope, I didn’t mention it until now. Can you imagine the combination of hot, enclosed spaces, and opened Italian cheese? No I don’t think anyone can ever come even somewhat close to what that smell could be.

This is where the story gets difficult to write, I don’t think I have it in me to try to remember that hideous smell again. I don’t even want you to even attempt to imagine the aroma! However, I’m letting you off easy, you see, whatever chemical reaction transpired with the hot August heat, enclosed space, and smelly cheese, was permanent! Imagine, our clothes packed in the truck, stunk, however after a few months of washing the odor subsided, but the poor brand new car never did overcome that unmentionable odor. Three years later, Dad bought us a brand new ’54 Buick, but only after complaining over and over from us. Just how long that odor remained in the car is unknown. But it’s a good bet the person buying the used Fraser, that was in otherwise great condition, had to have the stuffiest nose in the world. I pity his poor family! Really, I do!

What's a Hoss Fish?When I first arrived in San Jose, CA, I attended Peter Burnett Junior High School. As things go in California, it’s probably a condo area or parking lot now! But, I digress, as usual.
Fresh from New England, with a Boston accent thick enough for a steak knife to cut through, arrived at school wearing a dress-shirt, tie, pressed slacks and jacket; and that’s a whole new story by itself! The pain!

Most of the students had never heard such an accent yet, (President Kennedy where are you?), and took no time in mocking my thick accent, and sounding far worse than I could ever do on my own. Of course, the laughter was always at my expense, young pre-teenagers will be the cruelest species on earth anyway!

One day after few months in attendance at the school, and after some of the newness of my accent wore off, I did the unforgivable, I fell-back on my thickest accent ever. It was in a seventh grade Biology class, or at least a section of a class dealing with that subject. Our teacher liked to call upon students that looked like they were not paying attention, or perhaps had a glazed expression in their eyes. Guess who’s turn it was for that call, yup, you’re right, me! Apparently, we were studying animals from the sea at the time. The subject being discussed at that moment was the nature of the little male sea-horses ability to protect its young. I found the subject fascinating, and was really paying attention, but just must have day dreamed for a few catch worthy seconds. And there it was, Alfred, would you please tell us what you’ve learned about this little animal?

Well, I could, like I said, it’s a fascinating animal, however, I just blocked on its name. See that was probably part of the not paying attention at 100%, or just getting tongue-tied for a moment. So I started my recall of what I learnt about the animal, down to the last little detail, and it amazed the teacher, I’m sure of that! All but the part of what the little animal was call, what was its name Alfred?

Doggone it, what was that name, all I could come up with was a little New England description, “you know, it’s a hoss fish!” It took a devastating five minutes for the teacher and thirty classmates to stop the laughing. I thought the teacher was going to bust a gut laughing, he couldn’t even stand up, he was laughing so hard. That made the class laugh even louder and longer too! All but one person got the joke, me! What in the heck was so funny about a little hoss fish? After the laughter settled down, my teacher offered its name for me, sea-horse. I’m thinking, sea hoss, hoss fish what’s the big difference anyway?

It’s only fair to tell that my teacher did offer an apology, explaining that my choice of words was very funny to them, and how I pronounced the word horse triggered the laughter. However, I really didn’t get what was wrong with how I pronounced the word hoss anyway.

Mrs. DiCola's Sugared Walnuts apology

Mrs. Di Cola was our landlady and watched over us for our parents, when we came home from school. An hour later, we got picked up by our Grandfather and delivered to our parents business in Saratoga, until we could all come home together.

I’ll back-up in time for a moment to introduce this lovely woman. When we first arrived in San Jose, California, the real main city of what was then called the Santa Clara Valley, (today it’s known as Silicon Valley), finding an apartment that accepted kids was rare. San Jose was a small city of maybe 85,000 back in 1951. All of our parents plans for finding a suitable settlement home were upset by this simple fact, moving with kids was not a good idea when there were no helpful laws to protect families from this sort of infringement or right to find a home. Fortunately, today’s laws prevent this sort of behavior.

Continue Reading »

In December of 2014, we planned a wonderful vacation cruise to the Caribbean with another couple, our closest friends. The trip included a flight to Fort Lauderdale and then a drive down to the Port of Miami on a Saturday, the day before the cruise.

The flight was long and required plane changes, but everything went okay, and they didn’t lose our luggage at all this time! And, that is a good thing since two pieces of luggage held a Dialysis Machine and needed parts as well. This is always the biggest worry when we travel by air, my wife’s machine and parts are crucial to her well-being, Hell, her life, let’s get real!

Our overnight stay in the Hilton Miami Downtown Hotel was excellent; what a beautiful room we had! Floor to ceiling windows on two walls, with a view of the Port and the cruise ships waiting to set sail in the morning. We arrived so late that the in-house restaurant was already closed, but they did recommend a wonderful restaurant a couple of blocks away that we could walk to instead of hiring a cab. I baulked a bit since being tired, and walking wasn’t that easy with my bad knee. However, it was more than worth the walk, pain, etc., because the food was impossibly great!

The next morning we taken to the NCL Epic Cruise Terminal by the Hotel transportation. A short ride and an exceptionally short time to get aboard ship and into our respective adjoining staterooms. I’d say less than an hour from the hotel lobby to our stateroom, it’s a good bet. Our baggage was with us along with several boxes of my wife’s Dialysis fluids too. NCL wouldn’t take the fluids directly so we had them shipped to the hotel instead and then carried them with us.

Our baggage handling from the dock entrance to the ship was out of our sight. Because it was at this point that the baggage with the Dialysis machine became damaged. How do we know this? Easy, the very strong Carbon Fiber case we purchased for the machine was completely dented in, (pushed in), on one corner. So much so, that the right front wheel is now into the luggage space! It was standing only on three wheels and very unstable. My opinion from looking at the damage case, it had to be dropped from a very high point, let’s say, the top of the luggage carriers used to bring the luggage to our stateroom. And, this could have happened in the staging area of the dock when the handlers from the ship took over from the Longshoremen of the Port. My guess, and I’m thinking I’m right. My point of contention is, both pieces are well-marked with signs that the contents were fragile and holding life support equipment. And I do mean, well-marked too, on all six sides of the baggage. Maybe I should make more signs in different languages as well? Point well taken, I’m getting right on this!

The first and second nights, Sunday and Monday, using the Dialysis machine went without a hitch, I was so relieved, the machine survived the concussion. However, Tuesday night while we are at sea and far from any port, the machine came to a screeching halt during the night, forever! This is the biggest disaster for a Dialysis patient, that machine keeps her alive and well, and the ship was not equipped to help her too!

We used our iPhone to call the dialysis machine supplier to see if there was any way to work around the broken machine. Well that short call to the mainland from the ship cost us $85 bucks and resulted in, there’s nothing we or they could do for us. However, they did arrange to send another machine to our home in California overnight, except we were at sea for several more days! There wasn’t enough time to ship it to one of our destination Ports like Jamaica, or the Grand Cayman, so that was out. Plus they said there was no way to Jerry-rig the existing bags of fluids into manual style exchange bags. However, we did have enough manual bag supplies to stretch it out for 3 more days, but, that did leave us short 3 days of fluids before arriving at home. Disaster! I feel that I must maintain a pretty stoic attitude during this disaster, it won’t help my wife to deal with the problem if I become a basket case. I’m keeping as much of the worry under wraps now, I hope she doesn’t think I don’t care, I do very much!

Now its Wednesday morning and we have docked in rainy Jamaica. Prior to the cruise we purchased tickets for the Best of Jamaica Tour, it was to last a few hours before returning to the ship. But after the night and morning of grief over the broken machine, we gave up the idea of the tour and stayed aboard the ship calling and trying everything we could to fix the problem machine. Our traveling companions did take the tour and shared their experience and photos with us, so it helped a bit. But, we really didn’t care at this point, we had some serious stuff to attend to today! We even had the ships electrical engineer come to our room to check out the power, in case that’s what was wrong. Nope, nothing wrong with the power. My buddy who was traveling with us thought he could work out some kind of Jerry-rig for us, so he set out to try when he came back from the tour. To no avail, the word we got from the manufacturer was right, there is no amount of Jerry-rigging that was going to work.

In those six days, my wife struggled to maintain a healthy level, but it started to go bad once she had no fluids to exchange. Her body reacted by holding in toxic fluids, so much so that by the time we arrived at home, the following Monday morning, she gained 28 pounds of fluids! It has taken almost two months for her to regulate the excessive fluids she retained, and happily, she has lost all the extra fluid and a few extra pounds too.

The experience traumatized her and left the rest of us on the cruise feeling hapless. There was absolutely nothing we could do except try to find a flight home from one of our Ports of Call, the most likely would have been in Cozumel, Mexico. We chose not to do that since there was so much advance planning that needed to be done, and the chance of delays, screw-ups, etc., were great. Cozumel Port of Call was on Friday, all we needed to do is get through Saturday on board, and Sunday’s flight home. So that’s what we did, Sunday started early, off the ship at about 10:00am, off to Fort Lauderdale for the flight home. Of course, that included a couple of Obligatory stops first, one in St. Louis, MO, and another in Las Vegas, NV before landing home in Sacramento, CA. By the time we gathered our luggage from the carousel, and met our driver, we arrived at our house around 1:30am. A ridiculously long day! Of course, our exhaustion and it was too late to get the help we needed setting up the new machine that was waiting for us at home. So the first night on a machine was Monday night, a full week after the machine stopped working.

Formerly lulled into complacency with several cruises under our belt without a hitch, our new resolve is surprisingly not, never take another cruise while on dialysis at all. What we are thinking is, back-up the back-ups. Plan on using the dialysis machine, but buy the most secure case on Earth to hold it, and bring manual supplies to last the full length of the trip plus a few extra days too.  But, all it takes is one horrific experience like ours to wake us up to be more responsible in the future!

Old Wooden Bushel Basket

Moved to the first house our family owned, a cottage built-in the 1870’s that had wallpaper unchanged in over 80 years!

It was right after WWII ended and I was probably five or six years old at the time. I remember wanting to be a good little helper for my parents as they tried to update this museum of late nineteenth century living the good life. The first item on the list of “to-dos” was to remove some really bad wall paper choices someone made eighty years earlier! Even as a little guy, I knew how badly it needed to be changed.

Dad had some kind of steam machine that made peeling the old paper off the walls a breeze. Big old strips of aged Caramel-colored printed paper came tumbling down to the floor easily, and it was my job to pick them up and stuff them into round wooden bushel baskets. This was fun, if not sticky work, but I’m a kid, I don’t know how to be lazy yet! Continue Reading »

Antique glasses, that's more antique than me!

I was in the fourth grade and eight years old when I got my first pair of eye-glasses; it was the first time I saw anything the way it really looked! And, that was when I got my new nickname, Four Eyes.

I think perhaps a derogatory name, but I was so excited to see a whole new world. Well, I guess you might have guessed by now, I was extremely myopic; I could see things pretty good if it was really close to me, that’s what nearsighted people can do best. Anything beyond four feet, was either blurry, or non-existent.

I loved our weekend trips in the country or best when we headed to the beach for the day. I looked out the car rear window and saw everything as a moving blur, that’s what I knew to expect when the world was passing by. I never suspected there was more or that something was missing, it had been that way my whole eight years on the planet. My parents had no reason to suspect something was amiss. Continue Reading »

Boston Commons Lake Swan Boats

It was the Post-War Forties, and how fun it was to ride the Swan Boats.

I wish I could remember exactly about the Swan Boat ride in the Boston Commons Lake; in my mind we could rent smaller peddle boats for a cruise around the beautiful lake. However, as I search for information and images of this, I find that they are/where passenger boats with park bench-like seating, and someone else does the piloting. It seems so passive, not as I recall it to be, not as I could have been much help either with the peddling at four or five I guess!

I promise myself to investigate and report back to this post when I can clear it up.