Chiai

Or

Alfredís Coming Of Age

 

Having learned my lesson the hard way not to write about living family members without, at least, a cursory blessing, I submitted the following to Cousin Alfred for marginal editing. Al provided much of the background here and, where I thought expedient, I let him tell his own story. Wherever a sentence or paragraph appears in bold type, these are Alís recollections.

During Alfredís eighteenth year, his mother, my Aunt Marie had passed away, my brother Dave got married, and Al had an excellent adventure.

It all started innocently enough at Dave and Rhondaís wedding rehearsal get-together at my motherís home. Alfred was an usher. We had mourned Aunt Marieís passing and were transitioning (I know, itís not a damn verb) from death to new beginnings.

Everyone at your house allowed me to mix my own drinks which turned out to be Bourbon & Coke (the later ones were more Bourbon than Coke). I think I had just turned 18 a couple months before and it was a couple months after my momís funeral.

We were so busy singing and partying that I didnít take note of Alfredís delicate condition until the party broke up. We got some coffee into him but, instead of a groggy drunk, we now had a wide awake drunk. We figured Al would survive but I was more worried about his fatherís (my Uncle Fredís) reaction. Donít get me wrong, Uncle Fred with Aunt Marie had raised 4 girls and Alfred the surprise baby, but he could be really stern when motivated in that direction; I certainly didnít want to incur his wrath.

So, I rolled Alfred down the stairs and into the front seat of my green with the white stripe Chevy Vega.

I donít remember where I tried to destroy your transmission.

We were driving down Chestnut Street doing about 30 and, just before the corner of Western Ave., Al all of a sudden reached over and sent the gear shift into reverse. I slammed on the brakes hopefully just in time to prevent permanent damage. I could have killed him with impunity. Al, however, sloughed it off and began singing countless verses of ĎKansas Cityí. Given the number of cities extant, he could have probably sung the song for months. For a brief history of our familyís love affair with this song, I would refer the reader to the story "Aunt Marieís Funeral". Anyhow, with apologies to Little Richard, Alfred crooned:

(MEDLEY: KANSAS CITY (Leiber/Stoller)/HEY HEY HEY HEY (Little Richard)
performed by Little Richard
tab transcribed by Collins Crapo)

Guitar chords provided in case you get the urge to join in. (I know, I ended the sentence with a preposition Ė get over it!)

G
I'm goin' to Kansas City
Kansas City, here I come
C
I'm goin' to Kansas City
G
Kansas City, here I come
D
They've got crazy women there and
C G
I'm goin' down to get me some

Well, I might take a train, I might take a plane
But if I have to walk, I'm goin' just the same
C
I'm goin' to Bouctouche, Canada
G
Bouctouche, Canada, here I come

C

Iím goin to Bouctouche, Canada

G

Bouctouche, Canada, here I come
D

They've got crazy women there and
C G
I'm goin' down to get me some.

About 15 verses got us to Dunkiní Donut. I went in and bought him a large black coffee.

I remember we went to Dunkiní Donut on the Lynnway, where I fried my tongue on the burning hot coffee (only figured that out the next day).

Needing to buy time, I drove to the beach in Nahant where I figured a long walk along the water would be sobering. Unfortunately, Al didnít know where the sand ended and the water began. So, for the next 45 minutes, he was in and out of the water.

Then we went to the beach, or was that before Dunkin Donuts? I recall when I woke up the next morning, the bottom half of my blue jeans were still damp and had sand on them.

He was now as sober as heíd ever get, so off we went in a last attempt to get him home. The Vega was old and on its last leg; the muffler was noisy but the transmission continued to hold.

I do remember when we finally got to my house you wanted to get the hell out of there before the noise from the muffler woke up my Dad.

I remember trying at least a dozen times to get my house keys in the lock but for some reason they wouldnít go in. Eventually I got in.

When I woke up the next morning, I had a hell of a hangover and I had some recollection of getting sick on the porch but I donít remember actually getting sick.

When I went down stairs, my Dad was sitting in the living room and took one look at me and said "you must have had a hell of a night!"

I remember cleaning up my mess on the porch. I had dropped four of five quarters out of my pocket when I got my keys out and they were still lying on the porch next to the puke. Later in the day when my sister Cecile came home from work, she told me she was going to take the quarters when she left for work early in the morning but couldnít get near enough because of the smell.

Although I donít know why, I remember laughing like hell throughout most of the way home.

Well, did Alfred come of age that night or come close to not aging at all?

Whatever.

Cousin Alfred was the runt of the litter in the Dupuis/Stanley/Leger/Gallant/Carmody extended family. His birth was a surprise to some since maman was on the biological cusp for child bearing. Others thought that Uncle Freddy and Aunt Marie did it Ďtil they finally got it right, i.e., after 4 unsuccessful tries, they finally got a boy.

We lost track of Alfred for years. We heard he had a career in that oxymoron - Army Intelligence. Then, in 1987, Terry and I joined the Paris/Rome trip of St. Jeanís Menís Choir. We had heard that Al was somewhere in Belgium, so we got a hold of him by letter and arranged to meet at the Louvre in Paris. Iíve got a picture of him taken there. He looked like a cross between Inspector Gadget and Inspector Monsieur Poirot. I swear to god he was wearing a long trench coat and James Bond style dark glasses.

So, here we are in 2003. Al and I had started communicating again, this time by E mail for the last few years. One day, he Eíd that I should write about the aforementioned adventure. I said sure as long as he let me know what heís been doing all these years. The following sums it up:

On Saturday, Aug 30, 2003, at 5:44 Europe/Rome, Tom Carmody wrote:

Hi Al,

I need your help with some questions to provide filler for the story:

1. Birth date

2. Schooling

3. Roughly, what do you do in the military? what branch? Interesting places traveled?

4. How did you meet your wife? Any pictures?

5. Where in Italy do you live?

6. Spell Chiai and how did that get started?

7. How did you get interested in fire chasing? Any other interests?

8. Anything else you'd like to throw in?

 

Thanks, Tom

 

 

Sent: Tuesday, September 30, 2003 5:18 PM

Subject: Re Your excellent adventure

 

Tom,

 

Sorry it took me so long to reply, but Iíve been gone most of the time. Here are the replies youíre looking for.

 

1. Born 20 March, 1957

2. Graduated 1975, Saint Mary's High School, Tremont Street, Lynn. One year as an Oceanography Major, Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL. U.S. Army Schooling - Basic Training Oct - Dec 1976. Telecommunications Specialist - Mar 1977 (Fort Gordon, Georgia). Counterintelligence Special Agent - June 1979 (Fort Huachuca, Arizona). Certified Technical Special Agent (Technical Surveillance Countermeasures (TSCM)) - Mar 1985 (Fort Meade, Maryland). Adavanced Non-Commissioned Officer's Course (Leadership) - Apr 1988 (Fort Huachuca, Arizona). Senior Instructor (Counterintelligence Investigations and Report Writing) - July Ď92 - May Ď94, (Fort Huachuca, Arizona). Retired from the U.S. Anny as a Sergeant First Classt:E- 7) on 31 May 1997 with almost 21 years on active duty. Completed Bachelor's Degree in History with University of Maryland University College in Jan 1998 after nearly ten years of night classes at different locations where I was stationed. Currently I am the Operations Officer for the Vicenza Military Intelligence Detachment, Civilian grade of GG-14 (equivalent in military rank to a full Colonel). I have been working here for five years.

3. When I was in the Army as a Counterintelligence (CI) Special Agent, most of the job was concerned with the occasional counterespionage investigation and countless personnel security investigations where we interview people about their backgrounds if they are going to get a security clearance for access to classified material. When I was a TSCM Special Agent much of the time was spent traveling from base to base conducting investigations to see whether or not there were electronic listening devices in sensitive areas. In my current job, I do pretty much the same thing as when I was in the Army except now I have lots more responsibility, and we are much more involved in counter- terrorism activities and trying to protect our forces from acts of terrorism. Sometimes very exciting work, since most of the reports we write go straight up the chain of command to the national level, but it can also be very boring at times. During my career I've been to lots of great places, Athens and numerous villages in Greece; Istanbul and numerous villages in Turkey; Italy of course; United Kingdom; France; Norway; Denmark; Belgium; Germany; Holland; and Luxembourg. My favorite location for beauty - hands down - Norway.

4. Met my wife Isabella when I was in the Vicenza Hospital for blood clots in my left leg. She was one of the nurses on the ward where I was for two weeks. After I got out of the hospital I met her again after I realized her sister worked in the Education Center on the base where I was going to night school. Her sister's name is Olga and she speaks excellent English. Isabella understands English very good but she has not had enough practical exercise speaking, so she does not have the confidence level she would like. I have some pictures but I'll have to see if I can digitize one or two at work. We were married on 11 October 1997 here in Italy at her parish church.

5. I live in the Vicenza, Italy area which is about 60 miles west of Venice in the northeast portion of the country. It is also known as the Veneto Region.

6. I guess fire chasing runs in the family. Before I started listening to police/fire radios, I can remember my Mom and Dad had an old poster-type thing hanging in the kitchen cupboard. It listed all of the Lynn fire alarm boxes by number/street location and had a description of all the special signals which were sounded by the horn if there was a big fire. I can remember going out to fires when I was small with the girls if they knew where the fire was. Uncle Alcide liked to chase them too, and if I remember correctly so did Cousin Richard. It's still my favorite hobby and I have lots of different scanners I listen to when I am in the States.

7. I consider myself an advanced amateur photographer. I like to do my own black & white developing but I don't get the chance since I don't have my own darkroom or enlarging equipment. Isabella and I probably have about 25,000 slides between us of all the places we've been. I used a Minolta Maxxum 7000 camera for over 15 years until I bought a new Canon EOS-l V last year before Isabella and I went to Canada for Dad's 90th birthday. I like to shoot scenic vistas and still life. I especially like to use AGF A SCALA ISO 200 film because it's black & white but is developed like slide film and is shown just like slides. Awesome contrast. (If I get a slide scanner, I'll send some samples of my work for your web site.)

8. My other quasi-passion is history. I prefer European history and I enjoy visiting all of the militarily significant sites there are in Europe from the early Middle Ages to the Second World War. Of course being in Europe is the cat's meow since we are relatively close to many places of military significance. For example, just north of Vicenza (about 40 miles) is the southern limit of the Alps more commonly known as the Dolomite mountain chain. Along this chain were the front lines of the First World War between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Many forts and tunnel complexes still exist and you can visit them (although they are not in the best of shape). 500 pound and 1000 pound bombs are still found once or twice a year from aerial bombardments during the Second World War. Last year (April 02) they found an 8000 pound British "daisy-cutter" in the main Vicenza cemetery. It was dropped on the Vicenza main train station during the last days of the war but did not explode. At that time the bomb was moved to another location which later became part of the cemetery. They had to evacuate all of the city when they decided to move it because if it had exploded it would have destroyed everything within a 1000 meter (half-mile) radius. Italian Explosive Ordnance teams moved the bomb to a grotto by truck where they basically burned all of the explosive out of the container (which was about three feet in diameter and six feet long).

Iíd like to finish this story with a short dissertation on the term CHIAI. We began conversations, ended them, and peppered words in between with CHIAI. For example, the phone rings, I pick it up.

"CHIAI". Prolonged and with a strong nasal twang. I know right away itís Alfred. In his own words:

Chiai is the correct spelling (as far as I know). As best as I can remember it started with a bunch of us kids in the Carnes Street neighborhood. What it represents is anybodyís guess, we always used it when we were making fun of somebody (usually old people like us).

Well, thatís it. I hope we can all get together in the not too distant future.

CHIAI !!!