Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Stuffed Cabbage and Pastrami Sandwiches


This slide was in a box of slides packed away for about 30 years. It's a Kodachrome duplicate, a duplicate of what original I have no idea. It's contrasty as hell, as duplicates tend to be, and the highlights are pretty much washed out well past the salvation of Photoshop. Clear film is clear film.

I have no memory of who the boys are, where they are, or why I made the exposure, but the look in the bigger boy's eyes is haunting, compelling, demanding that I let the world try to peer into his soul.

I think that they're Rom, what we usually refer to as Gypsies. They call themselves Rom referring to their former home in Romania although the people likely came originally from India many years ago. About 1980 I discovered that the house next door to me had been rented to a Rom family. A couple in their 50's or 60's, a younger couple, and two kids. Everybody warned me to be careful, that they'd steal everything not nailed down, and to not let myself be talked into any "money making" schemes.

A few days later as I went to my car I saw the grandmother standing outside the kitchen door, a familiar odor drifting across into my driveway. I said "Good morning. That smells just like my grandmother's stuffed cabbage! She always cooked it with raisins." A smile flooded the woman's face as she asked my name and where I was from. We chatted briefly but I had to get to an assignment. When I got home that afternoon her son knocked on my door and invited me over for dinner. The stuffed cabbage was fantastic, as good as any my grandmother ever made. Her husband asked me where was the best place around to get a hot pastrami sandwich. For the next several months I ate dinner over there 3 or 4 days a week, and often about 10 or 11 at night I'd get invited along to go to Corkies for a hot pastrami sandwich. He always insisted on grabbing the check. Then one day I came home to see a "For Rent" sign on the house. They were gone, the entire family, the three cars. I never saw nor heard from them again.

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