The radio where I heard the news that Robert Kennedy was shot – yes I remember a fuzzy split second of 1968, of a child staring at a big rectangular wooden box with a stained yellow cloth stretched on the speaker – moved from Italy to Montreal, with me, approximately in 1982.
I had just moved into a reconditioned factory on St Lawrence street next to the homonymous Jewish bakery and in order to make it more special I had started to swipe things from back home: I mean, things that nobody would care about, like that old radio. Problem is, it had stopped working approximately after the announcement of the illustrious death, but her beauty was in her vintage look alone. Already in 2010, when first considering moving back to Italy, I had looked around to get it fixed, might as well do it here, I thought, it would have been cheaper than in Euros. Hovsiep in the Mile End had offered to do it for 50.00 dollars, the electrical parts, the Greek guy assured me, would have worked in Italy as well, just flipping the futuristic voltage regulator. However, the cheapstake, I had always procrastinated, until here I am, December seventh 2017, seven days from the deeds of sale of my loft, having to make up my mind about the future country of my parents’ radio: Canada or Italy? I My KLM baggage allowance already overpassed by an extra 5 kilos, it was not an issue of extra charge, I would have gladly paid to take her back home where she belonged. I was practically loading my whole Montreal house in the cargo of the jet……and even a few steps from the bus into the airport, or from the train to a taxi when in Italy, would have been a physical no go.
The guts of wind that Mordecai warned us about, on an Italian page of Barney’s Version which I am still reading to mom – were a mere forboden compared to the relentless bites of chill that poked my flesh that day: Hovsiep was probably passed Bernard; getting there on foot dragging the shopping trolley with the radio in it was no more go for the extreme temperature, so I decided to tap the Mile End’s dollar store for extra tuk, extra socks, and since the extra gloves were a buck and a half, i went for extra extra large socks to go over my mittens as well.
Still feeling miserable for the unsuccessful measure, I said for the nth time “mom forgives me everything” and walked into Moise Rothschild’s Antiquites, unrenovated since 1982, in order to abandon the heirloom at the nearest brocanteur. I didn’t expect the owner to be still alive, let alone kicking. As a matter of fact, it was his nephew who conveyed his “refusal to take the responsibility”. I took it the wrong way, thinking he might have been wary about the pressure cooker look of the old speaker inside, a round metal box surrounded by tangled wired, exposed since I lost the back cover, and I was hurt. Indeed the notice on the mirage storefront, made Moise Rothschild’s 1930 windows looked like optical illusion between Starbuck and Fido. It bore the inevitable: under the blue crayon logo of a diamond, drawn by hand on a homework schoolbook page, the owner of the last remain of history of the Mile End was “desole pour l’inconvenient de la fermeture pour des raisons de sante”. Again, a pure laine Jew of the Mile End, speaking, or for that matter, writing in French, sounded like an alligator tweeting. Mom clearly had sent a message: keep going, to Hovsep.
Hovsep, in the end, turned out to be the second last remain of history of the Mile End, in that he was still alive, although, unlike Moise,: kicking. His storefront window flacked the replacement of needles for turntables 1978 and older, and posted typical mediterranean business hours: closed on Monday, which was exactly that day of the week. Stuck in the cold and a dead end for thirty seconds was too much even for a looser, when a gray long haired old woman, fitting the mediterranean context, bubbled up from from the balcony above, up the wavy metal stairs, and said her husband would come to open the door. Of course she was reassured by the radio in cardboard box. While we were waiting, I asked her where she was from, she said Armenian, I continued: and your husband? ‘Greek!”, thus confirming I was in the right place; she then inquired on her own: Italian! , I said, pronouncing the ‘I” as in ‘ice”, in order to ingratiate myself to her. She laughed, as if I was the natural completion of a mischievous triade.
I explained to Hovsep that I wanted to get the radio fixed, so it would have been easier for it to be purchased, since I couldn’t bring it home, and besides that, the antique look of his shop would have also been the perfect place for the thing to find a nice home. The man thought that it was crazy to pay money for something to be abandoned, so I had to tell him that was the radio where I heard the news that Robert Kennedy was shot. Robert, I underscored, not John, as if that could have helped to give out less of my age. He didn’t seem convinced, but as I bursted “it was my mom’s radio!” and a few tears, he had to oblige, and, why not, make hay out of it: it would have been 48.00 dollars ahead, the rest after a quote, which turned out to be 100 000, promptly approved: after all, I was going to be rich in a few days, after the deeds.
On the 10 of december, the notary emailed that i should be ready with two pieces of ID, original certificate of localization, property documentation, on next Thursday, subject to buyer’s money in his “in trust” fund.
The money never arrived, I bailed out of the notary’s appointment, crossed the pond, radio safe at Hovsep. The buyer, of course, never claimed my house.