Monday, June 2, 2003

A little over a week ago, I was sitting in a 'Socialist Labour Hall'. It was built in the early 1920's. The hall was filled with people. They were enjoying a classic, Italian lunch of anti-pasti, lasagna, and Chianti. The sun was shining through the windows. Ceiling fans were rotating lazily overhead.

The hall has been renovated, to some extent. That renovation is revealing a building that is very Italian in every respect. You almost feel like you could walk out the door and into a bustling piazza, a town square, somewhere in Toscana.

Although hundreds of people were in sitting in that hall, it was almost silent. The only prominent sounds were that of a slightly out-of-tune piano, and the voice of an old man. Singing. If you could call it that. His voice was broken and he could hardly carry the tune. People in the audience started talking. The 'singing' was slowly fading into the chatter.

I was experiencing a blend of annoyance and embarrassment. Why couldn't they find a better singer? Since they had to have someone sing. Which they didn't, in my opinion. People could have just eaten. Listened to the dull speaches. And left.

His voice had almost vanished, when it touched me. Or maybe it was the sight of his countrymen, straining to watch him through the kitchen door. A tear was running down the cheek of one of the women. The Italians had moved here a century ago. To cut the granite. From the largest granite depository mine in the world. They came because this was the source of the best sculpture material you could find. They could tame it. And the results would last forever. So they uprooted themselves and moved to this foreign continent. And adapted. And cut stone. Of course, now they are all considered to be Americans. Or Italian-Americans. But their English was broken, their demeanor was Southern-European, and it was obvious that they were holding onto something. Their country. Their culture. Their soul. Something.

I realized, that it wasn't how well he carried the tune. It wasn't how high his voice could reach. It was his heart. And whether or not you could hear it singing.

Suddenly, I could. And I was in Toscana.