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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

open da night

open da night
Originally uploaded by kristalynn.

there's a very popular coffee shop in montreal's highly-coveted mile end district. it's been around for eons, but over the past decade has been infiltrated by the neighborhood hipsters and need-to-be-seens. the coffee remains the best in town and you only ever have to tell vito how you like it once. he'll remember you, your name, and your coffee's fixings for the rest of time.

it's called "open da night". some time ago the "y" and "and" fell off of the "open day and night" sign. no one ever put them back, and the name stuck.

this is why, when the building burned down in the winter, the entire city freaked out and rallied together to rebuild a makeshift and temporary coffee dispensary across the street, in a flower shop.

the owner, rocco, was in mexico during the fire and renovations, recovering from cancer treatment. a tumor had formed on the roof of his mouth.

rocco was a real character. when stretched, he probably was 4'5". he only spoke italian and only spoke to italians. everyday he entered his coffee shop, wearing his little gray suit, and walked past the lineup of work-at-home-ers, completely disregarding them. the rumor is that he hated these young'uns because they ran his italian friends out of the coffee shop. but the fact that he was making about 1000x times the profits never came into play.

rocco gave back to the community. every christmas he set up the most elaborate nativity scene you'd ever seen this side of st. peter's. the manger was 100% to scale and inside rested mary, joseph, baby jesus, goats, bunnies, i think a cow, and 4 tonnes of hay. the lights and music made kids squeal.

every summer, for san marziale, the street would shut down to traffic and some kind of crazy procession with the virgin mary would take place. meanwhile, rocco was cooking up a trough of pasta for 900 people.

rocco returned from mexico this spring to a renovated "open da night". when i first saw him, i thought his much older brother was visiting from italy. this man looked more like a relative rocco must have than it looked like him. the cancer had gotten to him. his face was hollow and ashen. but he was out on the street in his little suit. every. single. day.

until last thursday. he was hospitalized. and he passed away on sunday. the cancer had made its way from the roof of his mouth up through his cheek, eye, and finally to his brain.

at the funeral today, his daughter read a letter that he wrote last year, on his name day - san rocco. and if my italian served me correctly, he was telling his family and friends to enjoy the festivals, the processions, and the pasta.

i made that pasta part up.

after his daughter finished reading the letter, the church, which was packed and spilling out onto the steps, broke into a standing ovation. i'm not catholic, and i'm not a church-going type, but i do think i heard somewhere along the way that clapping in church is certainly frowned upon. but it really was beautiful to experience something so spontaneous. there's no way something like that could have made God mad.


At July 28, 2005, Anonymous demetri said...

rocco can't.

At August 04, 2005, Blogger frogpajamas said...

i'm moved by this man, Rocco and his legacy. very sweet, indeed.


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