Monday, November 02, 2015


Back in the 1950’s, not everyone owned a bathtub in Brooklyn. In fact many apartments had a common toilet that was situated between two apartments on each floor. People could at best sponge bathe, but sometimes that was not enough.

Grandma’s house for instance had only a toilet and a sink, which was in her hallway. It had a chain for the water flush and the two knobs on her sink had rust and water stain from the many years of use. They were old buildings, and you got whatever you could find.

There was one lady who we called: la Signora Smelly, not to her face, however she wouldn’t have known what we were saying. A rather large woman who was very pleasant, she carried a cross, mainly her husband, and a blond haired firebrand who we called “Il Comunista”. From northern Italy, he was devoted to Grandma, because she would always reach deep into her pocket book and help people out. Grandma voted with her heart, not with a philosophy.

Getting back to la Signora Smelly, she had a bad habit, she liked to smooch, and if I was around she would grab me, smooch my checks, while an over-coming odor over came me, forcing me to hold my breath for as long as possible, then just as I was about to pass out, I would breath in and almost pass out!

She was lovely old gal, with a soft-spoken manner, arms like Hercules and the smell of a zoo, who would quietly sit there while Il Comunista ranted about Truman and/or Eisenhower and the misdeeds to the people. He was a laborer (what else) who one day: grandma reached her boiling point. She told him if he found there was so much wrong in America, he should get back on the boat and sail to Italy.

My Uncle Mimi loved to see Enzo, as they would get into it, arms flailing and hands punctuating the air, as if what they had to say would change anything. If in fact you yelled louder than you opponent, it meant that you yelled louder than your opponent.

But la Signora Smelly was always calm, would wave off Enzo and give him a lecture like he was a crazy person. Then she would say goodbye, a long, painful, smelly goodbye! Sometimes as I write this I can still smell her. Enzo? He went with her, the love and smell of his life, that Communist bastard.


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