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Portholes in Your Coffin

Page 6

Italian men would attempt to waylay me outside espresso bars with gallant compliments. You nice bigga girl, they would say eyeing me. I knew that to stare straight ahead and to walk quickly was the best way to escape being dragged into these dens of smoke, steam and short foreign men.

Beyond these four streets the world was vaguely known. There was the never to be visited region of Little Italy, thus named by my father. A land of espresso bars, strange delicatessens, a Kosher butcher’s shop with blank, secretive windows. Lower Lygon St. We never stopped there or got out of the car. We sped through it, I hardly daring to look out of the window. We drove on to the bright and promising Anglo-Saxon city.

Later I went with Golda Kirschbaum to her father’s barber shop next to the kosher butcher. Upstairs I saw the Passover candelabra and ate Matzo bread. The Yiddish accent fascinated me and as a dedicated mimic I practiced it. At school Jewish kids ate Matzo in skull caps for weeks. On Jewish holidays the school was sad and empty.

Teresa’s mother offered me lasagne. I was horrified, thinking of chop and two veg and jam-top pudding with custard. I walked with Teresa to confession at the monstrous church whose statue of the virgin and child on a high tower teetered over Nicholson St tramlines. I sat on the front step with my back to the unfathomable Catholic exercises going on inside the cavernous church. The East Brunny Metho where I went was next door.

Pesach, Matzo, Jacob, Ruth, Goldie, Ruth, Izzy, Abie, Benny, Schlomo, Schlemiel, Shalom, Mazel Tov

Lasagne, Minestrone, Un fancobolo per favour, buona sera, vesti la giubba et la facia in farina. Salvatore, Immaculata , Concepta, Rocco. Un libro di macaroni.

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