Friday, June 14, 2024

Deachman: A Christmas Day ‘melting pot’

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When he desires to eat in a restaurant, René Lefebvre usually takes to the streets close to the downtown Y, the place he lives, and panhandles — panning, he calls it — till he has sufficient to pay for a meal, typically at both the Elgin Road or Bramasole Diner.

On Monday — Christmas Day — Lefebvre was spared that preliminary hassle, as Bramasole prepare dinner and supervisor John Zacher invited the 62-year-old for a free Christmas dinner on the in style Financial institution Road diner, the place Lefebvre says he eats each two or three days.

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“John mentioned, ‘This one’s on us,’ ” mentioned Lefebvre, seated by himself at a desk close to the entrance of the restaurant.

Not that the value — $18 for turkey, ham and all of the fixings, in addition to dessert — was the deciding issue. Lefebvre says he would have paid anyway, however the type gesture was nonetheless appreciated. Later, he mentioned, he may go house to calm down or perform a little panning.

Victor Nesrallah performs at the Bramasole Diner on Christmas Day while René Lefebvre enjoys a warm meal.
Victor Nesrallah performs on the Bramasole Diner on Christmas Day whereas René Lefebvre enjoys a heat meal. Picture by Jean Levac /Postmedia

In the meantime, Steve Holst, sporting a vibrant purple cowboy hat, inexperienced shirt and red-and-white striped Ottawa Senators scarf, sat at a desk within the nook on the again, farthest from the door. It was the identical desk, he mentioned, the place he used to take his breaks when he labored on the diner. That was just for eight months, nearly a decade in the past, after mental-health points despatched him right into a tumble and a hospital, after which Bramasole proprietor John Balestra threw him a lifeline.

René Lefebvre was treated to a Christmas Day meal at the Bramasole Diner.
René Lefebvre was handled to a Christmas Day meal on the Bramasole Diner. Picture by Bruce Deachman /Postmedia

“It obtained me again on my ft and interacting with folks,” mentioned Holst. “It obtained my confidence again.”

It’s not all sunshine on a regular basis. Holst has a few estranged grownup daughters and two grandchildren that he didn’t anticipate to see this Christmas. However he wasn’t alone; as he awaited his meal, he’d propped up his cellphone and was having fun with a video chat along with his fiancée, Kanene Ugbaja, in Nigeria. The remainder of his Christmas Day, he mentioned, could be stuffed with NFL video games.

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Harps Sandhu serves customers at the Bramasole Diner on Christmas Day.
Harps Sandhu serves clients on the Bramasole Diner on Christmas Day. Picture by Jean Levac /Postmedia

At an adjoining desk, Clint Iverson and Sara Martin, and their 18-month-old son, Calvin Iverson, had simply ordered their breakfast, for the second straight 12 months profiting from the truth that Bramasole — which Clint describes as “our personal private little Cheers” — had opted to open on Christmas Day.

“We’ve been coming right here nearly each weekend since I used to be pregnant with Calvin,” mentioned Sara. “We come right here as a result of we find it irresistible.” For them, breakfast on the diner was nearly the calm earlier than the remainder of their Christmas — dinner that night time at Sara’s mom’s house, adopted by an onslaught of kids at their Overbook house on Boxing Day.

Martin Smith and Jeannie Benwell enjoy a Christmas Day breakfast at the Bramasole Diner before going home to prepare dinner for friends.
Martin Smith and Jeannie Benwell take pleasure in a Christmas Day breakfast on the Bramasole Diner earlier than going house to arrange dinner for pals. Picture by Bruce Deachman /Postmedia

Over 4 hours on Monday, from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m., the cubicles, tables and counter hosted a revolving parade of individuals and tales. Martin Smith and Jeannie Bernwell, sporting Christmas sweaters, had been having breakfast earlier than heading house to make dinner for pals, the place Smith would change sweaters for the one which lit up. At one other desk, Julie Levesque and Andy Atkins simply needed to search out someplace to have breakfast. “The bacon is what brings me right here,” half-joked Levesque.

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Don Carter was the Bramasole Diner's first customer on Christmas Day.
Don Carter was the Bramasole Diner’s first buyer on Christmas Day. Picture by Bruce Deachman /Postmedia

Don Carter arrived early from his Sandy Hill house, and waited nearly half an hour earlier than the diner opened. “I stay alone, however I by no means keep house all day,” he mentioned. “I can prepare dinner, nevertheless it’s not the identical. It’s good to speak to folks.”

David Kirk, who later within the day deliberate to take his sequined Christmas ball cap to Pembroke for a household gathering, described the diner’s clientele as “a melting pot.”

“It’s all walks of life,” he mentioned, “good, dangerous or in any other case.”

Manager John Zacher prepares a warm turkey meal at the Bramasole Diner on Christmas Day.
Supervisor John Zacher prepares a heat turkey meal on the Bramasole Diner on Christmas Day. Picture by Jean Levac /Postmedia

This was simply the second 12 months that Bramasole opened on Christmas Day, with Zacher and server Harps Sandhu, neither with household on the town, opting to spend one other day at work.

“We weren’t going wherever, so we determined we could as properly do one thing,” mentioned Zacher. “And there’s an actual sense of neighborhood right here, as a result of we’ve made it that means. There are individuals who don’t have household, however there are additionally {couples}, and folks with youngsters.”

And simply because the odor of turkey, stuffing and occasional wafted all through the room, so too did the sensation of goodwill. At one finish of the diner counter sat a small pile of wrapped presents and a group tin, with an indication urging clients to “donate and select a present,” with proceeds going to assist the much less lucky.

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It was a busy lunch at the Bramasole Diner on Christmas Day.
It was a busy lunch on the Bramasole Diner on Christmas Day. Picture by Jean Levac /Postmedia

At one level, Sandhu hugged a favorite buyer. Zacher took a second from the grill to shake arms and greet one other. Musician Victor Nesrallah, in the meantime, who solely realized on Saturday that the diner could be open on Monday, confirmed up along with his guitar to carry out. “I needed to do it simply to share,” he mentioned. “To share what I’ve, share what I’ve been doing for a very long time.”

And so he did, most poignantly, maybe, with a track he merely titled Christmas Track. “I nonetheless imagine in Christmas,” he sang. “I nonetheless imagine in hope. I nonetheless imagine in peace and pleasure for all of the world. I nonetheless imagine in Christmas time.”

Harps Sandhu serves a turkey dinner to David Kirk at the Bramasole Diner on Christmas Day.
Harps Sandhu serves a turkey dinner to David Kirk on the Bramasole Diner on Christmas Day. Picture by Jean Levac /Postmedia
David Kirk enjoys a cup of coffee at the Bramasole Diner on Christmas Day while musician Victor Nesrallah performs.
David Kirk enjoys a cup of espresso on the Bramasole Diner on Christmas Day whereas musician Victor Nesrallah performs. Picture by Jean Levac /Postmedia

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