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The clouds above Cleveland were violet and glittering. A few seconds after the flight captain announced that the descent had begun, the plane entered a blanket of clouds that were light and dense, cut through it and let appear a landscape by now both familiar and dear to  Cleveland. “Here they are,” he said to himself, “the so-called little houses of Canada Italian singers sang about in the 1950s and early 1960s.” He rested his forehead on the window and tried to pick out the big tower that he always chose as point of reference. While  Cleveland above, starting from the tower he was able to recognize the great arteries of the city. He could single out the various sections of the city and the streets he had hung around in during  Cleveland different periods of his life. He knew those streets one by one and so too those houses apparently all the same but which to him told something always different.

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A flag, the statue of a saint in front, the image of the Madonna, the vegetables in the yard, the way the cars were parked were enough for him to determine whether a Calabrese or a Friulano, an Italian or a Portuguese, a Greek or a Canadian lived there. When he chanced to enter any of those houses for work he had to do or for other reasons he was able to say from which calabrese village originated the family that had welcomed him by a painting, the arrangement of the furniture, the votive images, the photos hanging on the wall or left in the china cabinet, the bed coverings in the bedrooms, the products in the cellar. Ceramics, carpets, pots, slippers at the door, wooden stairways and other details, identical in all homes, weren’t enough to hide from him the other peculiarities, minute but distinctive.

He had refined here that sense of orientation which in Calabria enabled him to tell apart the different areas of the apparently same countryside, each of which had a different name, or to identify the fountains, the rivers, the groves, the cliffs, the pathways, and then the alleys, the back streets. A knack for detail that in Calabria, when he went around in the car seeking work, allowed him to single out from a distance each of the villages, which were always perched on some hilltop as if in a nativity scene and which to the untrained eye would blur into one, would be all the same.

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