Saturday, 28 April 2012

Keepin' it real

Six months in at The Regal, and still not a day goes by without the mention of Connie.

Connie Sticca: Born in Foggia, Italy, September 28, 1928 as Concetta Sabatino; emigrated in 1951 and subsequently began working at the Regal in 1967 after marrying Eugenio (Hey Jimmy!) in 1955 here in The Falls. Lovers, hee-hee ... :)  Connie and Jimmy purchased The Regal in 1972, where you'd get a 'fair deal and a square meal' for under three bucks. For ten years they served up good food at a reasonable price with smiles on their faces, a super Ma and Pa op which was sadly cut short when Jimmy passed away. Concetta could have conceded but instead she Surgite'd; onward she pushed for more than 25 years, in The Regal, without Jimmy. Closed Sundays.

Sadly Connie's reign ended on January 27, 2007 when she poured her last cup of coffee and called it quits.  

Connie passed away peacefully at Lundy Manor in Niagara Falls June 23, 2011, just 4 1/2 years after retirement.

The building was sold and since Connie there have been at least three new Regal owners, all giving it a go in their own way ..., and now, there's us.  

We are doing things quite differently than the failed few before us: 

Handmade, home-made, call it what you will,  
Ma & Pa now today, chillin' thrillin' spill.
Crazy days and jumpin' ways,
'Hey! You through wit dat?
'Cause you all know by now fo' sho'
we tryin' hard to that:

'Keep it real' 
by sharin' a fair deal 
an' kickin' a square meal.

A & S.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Yee-haw! and Pimp-my-ride.

We moved here from the back-country wilderness of BC where I’d been chased by cougars, bears and vicious dogs, where red-necks shot up our food-truck, why I was even charged at by a crazed neighbour in his 20 ton excavator, madly sweeping his bucket back-and-forth at me, but I have never felt more unsafe than at times right here, on the sidewalks of Niagara Falls, it’s a real Wild-West out there.

Now I had no real experience with either e-bikes or mobility scooters (which I've shortened to ‘mobscoots’ for convenience) where we were living in BC, so a year Downtown on the street in our food-truck introduced me to the 'mobscoot culture,' and now being Uptown, I’ve developed a certain understanding of 'e-bike culture.'

Downtown: You should see some of those pimped-out rigs, man, some people really take pride in their mobscoot. One summer a few years back I somehow ended up taking a lot of photographs of Harley-Davidson’s, and let me tell you those bikers had that same expression of pride I've seen in some of those mobscooters. It was Downtown that I thought of blocking off some street, maybe during Springlicious, setting up an oval-track and letting people race their rigs. Scoff if you will, but I bet there’d be more than a few takers if the opportunity presented itself.

I’ve seen some pretty gnarly granny’s out there, hardcore, grinding away right out there in the middle of four-lane traffic, flags flapping like battle standards. But what’s truly amazing is that no-one honks, no-one screams, no-yells ‘Get outta the way you old hag!’ Nothing. I figure people probably do what I do: I roll up my windows, turn my music up a little louder, and then let loose. Oh I’ve slung obscenities like a dock-worker at times make no mistake.

Uptown: E-bikers, complete with bad entitlement e-ttitudes; not all, but too many. While mobscoots may be just in the way or perhaps sometimes even annoying, they do seem mildly endearing, e-bikes on the other hand are dangerous. It seems as though there are no rules for those who ride them to ignore, and those who ride 'em know it. I saw one dude launch off the sidewalk in front of me, burn across Main st, hit the curb across the street in front of the funerarium and actually get nose-air. After a shaky landing, he then accelerated down the sidewalk, leaning into the turn and disappearing round the corner at Ferry, full Isle of Man kind of thing. And here’s stupid me labouring under the impression that stunting was prohibited in The Falls. I'm just waiting to hear of an application to the Powers-that-be for some e-biker to jump The Falls, like our very own Snake River Canyon. I can see Larocque's face now. Ha ha ha.

The other day we saw two competitors racing side-by-side down the sidewalk in front of our diner. I thought of Ben Hur as I watched and then felt sad for the elderly people who looked so frightened in their slow-motion scatter.

I’ve also seen too-many-a-person wobble up to the row of bikes, hop on one, and silently, speedily, weave away. The whole e-bike thing seems really outta hand. Obviously some regulation -in the name of public safety- is required. Training, testing, certifying, licensing and insuring of riders, traffic law observance and ticketing where necessary, who knows, maybe even some common sense could be applied somewhere.

But then again, I dunno, maybe they are a good idea, better for the environment, clean running, cheap and silent ... and there are no laws ... I think ... maybe ...: Hell yeah! Yee-haw! I’m gonna git me one!

Simon Kelly is a member of The Review’s Community Editorial Board and if anyone cares to, may be reached at: or through

Sunday, 15 April 2012


Today was likely the most stressful day we've had at the diner yet.  I hate to admit it, but I've been feeling the strain: sore foot, stiff knee, aching back, dry cracked hands, and a little carpal tunnel to boot, not to mention plain and simple exhaustion.  But for some reason it's all OK tonight because I'm 'High on People.'

Today was a crazy day. Sundays, though usually pretty busy, don't really show much action 'til 'bout 10:30 or so, giving loads of time to prep for the onslaught.  Problem was, today, before we could fully prepare for Sunday's push, the push showed up and gave us a supreme shove.  Table after table, no time to breathe, no time to get ahead let alone catch up. Knowing we were in for it, Simon cranked up the kitchen tunes, put his head down, steeled himself, or well, maybe spatula'd himself,  and Surgite'd into his pain-cage to take on 6 hours of steady cooking.  We were doing well, but the place kept filling, for the first time in the nearly 6 months we've been open, people were coming in and having to leave because there were no seats in the house. I'd had tweets and facebook posts telling me others were coming. I was three tables behind in getting drinks and was just buttering toast in the kitchen when Connie decided to kick me in the ass: Coffee Machine Diner Nightmares: Full house -64 eyes- frantic busy: Java Vesuvius, all over the floor. Everywhere. By all reports, a collective gasp, ..., then exhale happened, so much sympathy, so much entertainment: Breakfast theatrical tragedy at it's finest.
And then the 4-top of demanding drunks decided to leave without paying .... BUT it's all OK, at least now it is.  In the midst of it all, Cheryl, who has been a valued friend and customer since early days downtown and her sister Laura, after enjoying a couple bac'n'blues jumped right into the dish pit and began bubble-dancing. Roy-the-busboy whisked away dirty dishes, while his patient, crust enjoying wife said 'Hey, it's Sunday!'  Tawndawn and the Rally_medic were there to witness the burn and Pops was super easy to please and took care of the bubble-dancer's lunch.  To his credit the train signal guy -who dislikes bots- let me talk him out of an omelette at a critical time. Baxter and her man, and the Mr-and-Mrs-Totaldude-Campisano's should also all be commended for their impeccable understanding of the true and real #dinerlife that is our existence.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Boogie-man cometh

some days are diamonds and some days are rocks, today was a day I thought would be rock.  Was tired from the start, more than usual, but off we went, 'cause it's the 8 at 8.  But thankfully there were four,  half of only eight, and that seemed to brighten both our spirits and fate.

the day was long, we wobbled and bobbed,  they didn't stop coming, like zombies they mobbed.

we laughed and stood tall, with kindness and friends, through poached eggs and bacon, bright news and split-ends.

on through the day, the scene kept improving, by Noon we'd shed hopelessness, lameness, and losing.

the Hammer returned, but this time for beef, mushrooms and onions; a happy relief.

the end of the day, just a few take-outs more, we're so almost done, when in through the door, comes Greg.

breifcase and steno-pad, 'is that what he had? 'squinting laptop and printer, needs bi-focals so bad.
Neatly-neat: Quite collar-and-tie: 'Was in court today.' Oh really? oh me, oh my.

he went through our house with duty and care, leaving no stone unturned and no bulb unbared.

he summed up with glee, he summed up with might: 'You guys real good, you keepin' it real tight.'

Wednesday, 11 April 2012


So the hate wasn't too bad, a few nasty tweets, a few fuck yous, and one less friend on Facebook. It's too bad Renee and I couldn't work thru it, but I don't regret standing up for my own set of values and beliefs, we can't impose those on others and we can't expect everyone to behave like we think we would, but friends keep friends in check. Renee was doing it all the time to me. I learned from Renee that it was not cool to say 'that is so lame', she let me know every time I said it. She argued people who use the term are ableists, I disagreed...but nevertheless I've stopped saying 'lame' and have had my kids stop saying it too.

A lost friendship yes but still a learning experience. Now another thing I've learned is to eliminate all sources of negativity and move on. So I will now put this to rest.

Our friendship was short but Renee I sure learned a lot from you. Thanks for being my first, black, disabled, queer, feminist friend with a white unhusband and two kids. I'm pretty sure I'll never meet anyone quite like you again. :)

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Prepping for hate mail. :)

This is me:

Born in small town BC. Grew up going to the Church of the Mountains, ski hills, hot springs, hiking, fishing, and camping.  Nature lover, goat herd, chicken whisperer, organic gardener, baker and master canner, we lived over 5 years feeding ourselves and living a clean, mostly happy life on very little money.  When the trials of life had us leaving our peaceful mountain valley where everyone loved everyone and everything, I took it as an adventure.  Never lived in a town bigger than 17 000 people and never lived outside BC. 

Put me in a foodtruck on the streets of downtown Niagara Falls in winter, a cold and harsh place populated by an unfortunate amount of poverty, substance abuse, mental illness and general despair.  I had no idea that I was in for so many loving and learning experiences.  It was from within that foodtruck that I met Renee, my very first black, disabled, queer, feminist friend with a white unhusband and two kids.  I liked Renee right off the bat, she was fun to chat and argue with and had a good sense of humour.  Renee never knew this but even though she seemed to have so many of life’s challenges, I envied her. Despite being in a scooter Renee always looked great, and I often told her so,  she and her family seemed to be doing very well. She frequently had new hairdos,fancy make-up and nails, expensive purses and clothes, growlers of beer, cigarettes and hash, delivery food for the family, stories of chocolate flavoured soaps and furminators ordered online.  Despite being white, straight, able bodied people, we were really struggling, it was brutally tough. But we saw a lot of people way worse off on a daily basis though, and we often gave away buns, burgers and cups of coffee. Things got so tough for us at one point that the only thing that kept us going was Hope.

Now, things have gotten a lot better for us since we started at the diner, we are working very hard, an average of two full time jobs each, and we are slowly digging out.  I feel a lot of diner-orphan guilt but the kids have stepped up and are seeing that we can now provide them with some of the things we couldn’t before.  We saw Renee last week, she made the trip to the diner on her scooter, it was nice to see her, as always looking fantastic, really well done make up and nails and a brand new wig.  She was able to park her scooter outside and walk into the diner, I had been so worried about that because I had never seen her walk and knew her scooter wouldn’t fit in.   We had a great visit, she heckled us a bit about the music, it was fun.

Then Renee, who blogs as a supplement to her pension, made a blog post that I found questionable. Renee’s two computers and her mobility scooter broke down all in one week which is really shitty.  Renee made a very dramatic blog post asking for money for a new mobility scooter, she tugged at peoples heart strings, claiming a small pension (she told me she had a sweet pension), she made her financial situation out to be a lot worse than what she had revealed to me. And it worked, within 24hrs she had enough money for a new scooter and a new computer.  In the time I’ve known Renee I have gotten the distinct impression that she was not hurting for money and was shocked to read her post. I felt, as a friend, I had to ‘call’ her on it.  I told her that I didn’t take poverty lightly, and that I thought it was cheesy that she overdramatized her situation to get money, but that we could agree to disagree and try to move past it and on with our friendship.  She said she’d have to think about it, I said ‘OK that makes sense, get back to me.’

She never did get back to me but she certainly tried to get back at me.  But, it didn’t hurt because the second blog post revealed the truth about Renee, not about me.

Ask Barbara if I’m 'classist', or Hope if I’m 'ableist'.

I am a firm believer in keepin' it real, here is Renee's blog
And the second post that I was referring to:

It should be noted that the most hate I've received so far is from Renee in the form of f bombs and name calling. She claims she's a pacifist. Hmmm.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

The Hammer

An odd thing about #dinerlife is that every day when we unlock the doors we never really know what each day will bring, just as it was in the food-truck, we are putting ourselves out there to the public, to feed them, to serve them, to chat, sometimes even to council. New relationships with perfect strangers are built daily, sometimes emotional, sometimes overwhelming, sometimes exhausting, always educational and usually rewarding. Their names vary as their orders: Cream or not, Crispy Bacon-dude, The Ewok, The Plant, The Bible Poet, The Elevator Guy, The Grandma-before-her-time, Lesbian Lou, Angst Em, The 8 at 8, The Artist, of course Hope, Lips, Born again in '80, The 3 Rams, The Pinup and her Mancandy, the friend-list goes on and on, but, there is no-one as hardcore as Ham an' Eggs.  He's a true reg. With the exception of the few days, we've pretty much fed and coffeed Ham an' Eggs daily since we opened, he, in his own words, is 'predictable:' Ham and eggs over-easy every day with us, he's pleasant, he's polite, he's erudite; he has become a part of our daily life.

Today Ham an' Eggs ventured outside his box. He was the very first -and, sadly, the only- customer to order The Full Scottish Breakfast. So as a reward for his Braveheart, we thought he might like an Irn Bru, a soft-drink which has been made in Glasgow by the Barr family for over a century from a secret family recipe.  We had been -weakly- heckled by the Three Rams, who seemed squeamish over a wee bit of blood in the pudding, and so were delighted by Ham an' Eggs' order, and even more delighted when he dove into the black pudding first: 'because it was the furthest away from what he was familiar with.' The Hammer finished every last bite of his Full Scottish Breakfast, including his fruit, and proudly stated: 'Those regulars who didn't give this a try, really missed out.'

Yay Ham an' Eggs!  See you tomorrow for, well, ... Ham and eggs.  :)

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

To a Mau5

Today was our first 'official' closed day since we opened 5 full months ago, sure we've been closed a time or two but today was different, it was guilt-free, and well deserved ... the diner life can take it's toll, and we've realized we need to pace ourselves.  The plan was to spend the day at the diner, prepping, baking, cleaning, and whatever else needed to be done ... but, the best laid plans of mice and men ... and speaking of mice, Deadmau5 followed us on Twitter this week, when he was at the Junos, turns out he used to go to the Regal all the time with his dad when he was a kid, cool .... And so somehow we ended up on highway 8 today, in quest for black pudding and potato scones, McVicars Scottish Butcher and Baker in Stoney Creek our destination, a place Simon grew up with, a place I've tasted the delights from, but had never had the pleasure of actually going to.

When we got to McVicars we were hardly in the door more than two seconds when a strong Scottish accent greeted us, commending Simon for having me so well trained ... it seems I may have opened the door for him to enter before me .... It took a few moments for it all to set in, the secrets of haggis and lavender, meat pies and clootie dumpling, irn bru, flat sausage, mushy peas and black pudding ... Scottish newspapers, photos, Robbie Burns, tartans, Robbie Burns, a lovely Glaswegian girl, Simo's Yoda sharing the force with the already forceful, and of course Desperate Dan and the Haggis Basher.

We left smiling and took the slow road home enjoying the sites and sounds of a sure to be bountiful Spring.