Sunday, January 7, 2018

Having gotten fully distracted by a charming but bi-polar Sicilian character, I have not written anything much for these last years.  I am hoping to start again and keep at it.  The story of us is complex and occasionally tragic so I won't dwell on it.  I did see a lot of Sicily and that was fascinating.  Nothing like having a series of mad wheelmen to take you on a crazy trip around Sicily.  Lots of photos and advice for motorcycle rides.  Feedback is most welcome.  More soon. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sunday Morning Quiet

It’s Palm Sunday.  The week before Easter.  There is a foot race, not actually a marathon, in our part of town today so the buses aren’t running over here and the car traffic is nil.  A few people are out walking dogs, buying papers, having coffee.  The air is cool and fresh but the wind of the last few days is down to nothing.  The trees in the piazza have leafed out but are still that acid green of baby leaves.  The clean up crew that clears away the debris of last night’s partying has done it’s job and gone away.  It is lovely and quiet.  The air is fresh.  The sky is utterly cloud free and the brightest blue.  What a swell day. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Plague of Noise

Why has it become impossible to find a café, restaurant, bar, clothing boutique, elevator or garage that is not blaring some awful non-music noise?  Even at 9am in the morning my local coffee source is playing the mind numbingly monotonous sounds usually requiring a ghastly price in the front row of a fashion designer’s runway debacle.  If you ask them to turn it down in aid of conversation, the principle activity in these places until the stoned adolescents arrive around 8pm, they turn nasty and look at you like a turd in the punch bowl.  It might be tolerable to listen to, say Ray Charles, at this volume but it is currently impossible to find ACTUAL       MUSIC being played.  Since the median age of tourists is certainly over 40 (here in Italy it is probably over 60) and they have spent an increasingly huge sum of money to see an idealized version of our locale, why would anyone think these folks want loud, stupid AMERICAN music played so loudly it precludes normal speech?  Not to mention that the entire population of those under 35 now wears ear buds 24/7 and is living in their own universe anyway.  On my first visit to Europe in the dawn of time – 1965 – I was charmed to hear local versions of our American rock and roll and jazz but also to find the French form, or the German style or the Spanish take.  But it seems that now the music has consolidated into an international drek with no discernible identity.  AND IT IS ALWAYS TOO DAMNED LOUD!   I have even seen the barrista at my downstairs bar actually shooing away the gypsies who play – in truncated and bad form – the clichéd Italian standards which were actually written for the Godfather movies, parts one through nine.   I have heard it said that there are more deaf people under the age of 65 than over now that earbuds are part of the dress code.  I believe it.  I just wish that those of us who can still hear could be left to talk in an environment permitting same.  

Sunday, November 7, 2010

How I met Salvatore

On Easter Sunday I wanted to see part of the crazy exploding cart thingy that is traditional in Florence.  This tall pagoda-like structure is covered with fireworks of all kinds and pulled to the front of the Duomo by four giant white oxen where a flying mechanical dove ignites the fireworks.  A spectacular display is said to insure a great harvest or good luck or something.  I only wanted to see the oxen up close.  So I walked over to the cart’s garage and met friends and scoped out the beasts.  Magnificent and huge and festooned with flowers.   After 30 minutes of my gawking, the parade of flag throwers and drummers and gun toters and flowery maidens moved off in the direction of the Duomo.  I began my walk back to the apartment to prepare Easter luncheon.  At the Ponte alla Carraia, I saw that I could sit on the river wall and watch the parade, so I did.  It was all very festive and Buon Pasqua was said by all.  A group of people came across the bridge from behind me and I thought I saw someone I knew.  He looked at me.  I looked at him.  He passed by and immediately circled back to talk to me.
“Are you Florentine” he asked.
“No, Americana” I said. 
“Americana, Americana?” he asked, since many Americans are of Italian heritage. 
“Americana, Americana” I said. 
“Di dove sei?”  Where are you from? 
“California, but I live here.”
“In Piazza Santo Spirito.”
“IN the Piazza?” 
“IN the Piazza.” 
He said he went there all the time to drink the water from the fountain since it was so good. I said well, I sit in the piazza most days and drink coffee from 10 to 12.  Then he asked me if I liked to dance.  Sure, I said since I do.  Would you go dancing with me?  Sure, I said since I thought it would be completely safe to be in a public place with a man I did not know.  Do you smoke?  No.  I am a little deaf on the right side, he said.  Me too, I said.  He couldn’t pronounce my name let alone spell it so I put it into his phone and took his number.  And then I went home to make pranzo for 10 people. 
He called me later to be sure I really meant it and I said yes I did.  And then he sent a text about 9pm wishing me Buona Notte.  Very sweet.    The next morning was Pasquetta which I thought would be normal but in fact it was even more of a holiday than Easter.  He came at 10 and we went for lunch.  Not finding a cheap restaurant open that day, we bought  food and went to my place to cook.  After lunch we went on a three bus ride to a neighborhood west of the city.  We walked  into a small courtyard between two long narrow buildings:  half of one side was a small bar with everything from coffee to gin.  On the other was a card room with all of Martin Scorsese’s uncles and grandpas, dark coats and slouch hats and all.  I felt like I had walked into one of his movies.   When we entered the other narrow building, we found at least 50 men and women dancing around in a circle to a live musician.  They were all of about the same age as me and Salvatore, in ties and coats and spangles and heels.  The music was a mix of traditional Italian songs, modern pop music and rock and roll covers played by a single guy on a wild assortment of acordians, trumpets, trombones, piano and drums to the accompaniment of an electronic backup group. 
Salvatore turned out to be a great dancer.  He circled me around the floor and grinned and smiled and laughed as we learned to dance together.  He chucked my cheek and kissed his fingers.  He talked in a low graveley voice about my occhi azzurri (blue eyes), he  introduced me to his friends, all women, Carla with orange hair, the two blond sisters with the huge breasts, the siciliana.  All women!  They all said “C’e’ un buon uomo”, this is a good man.  He is.  I was completely smitten.  I still am.  Salvatore describes his first sight of me as a “colpo di fulmine” a lightning strike, love at first sight.  It is very romantic and I am very happy.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


We took the bus number 31 to the end of the line.  It was going to be the 10 but we missed it.  So “cambiamo il programma”.  It took us to Grassina, a small suburb of Firenze where he wanted to see the cemetery.  He made me promise that I would bury him there.  But we were hungry when we got there and so ate pizza with anchovies and pasta with bacon and pecorino.  After lunch we walked back to the center to the “Casa del Popolo” the community center found is nearly every neighborhood.  These are often large and well equipped senior centers with a bar, a dance hall, game rooms, a garden with outside seating and lots of anziani.  At this hour of the day it was all men.
I said “where are all the women?”  He said “at home, cleaning, making lunch.”   Grrrr.  Typical Italian, women doing all the work.  We wandered around, peeking in the rooms, eventually out past two very busy card tables under the trees.  Beyond was a shed roofed open sided structure with a crowd of men at the sides watching a bocci ball game.  The ancient roof beams and weathered pillars covered a clean swept, slightly dished surface edged with wood and capped by troughs at each end. 
We sat to watch just as one of the teams of four rolled a ball to within 4 or 5 inches of the target, a pink rubber sphere the size of a golf ball.  Two balls seemed to be the same distance from the target so a measurement was required.  A stalk from a broom was cut to fit the space and used to determine the winner.  The winner collected several coins.  A toss of the target and they began again. These vigorous old guys, short, mustachioed, all in jeans, windbreaker vests and athletic shoes, were able to roll the most amazing curves, esses and arcs that stopped on a dime, or straight shots with deadly accuracy, or throws that rolled up the side inclines, circled through the other balls to land practically on top of the target.  Incredible.  Only the 8 were playing.  Another 15 or so watched and chatted and commented.  We sat outside the shed on a bench under the trees.  The language was a dialect that Salvatore didn’t recognize.  The fall day was cool but sunny, the shouts of a football game and the gurgle of the river nearby;   the chatter and laughter of the men a rolling, bubbling comfort.             

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Warming Up

Well today felt like the first day of spring. The flea market was in the square and a multitude came to see the crapola on display. It was finally warm, at least in the sun, of which there was a goodly amount. I came out early, despite a late night at Nikkie’s for dinner with the lovely Ennio and Stefano who walked me home, to find Novella had returned from her getaway weekend to Kenya with fancy man Chicco. She brought her six year old with her, the adorable Tappo (which means cork as in bottle stopper) who lugged along a grand bag of treasures which he proceeded to spread along the pavement and sell like all the others in the piazza today. We coffeed and watched as generous local ladies perused the cars and key chains he had to sell. He actually sold quite a bit. Not really sympathy sales but close.
After a browse, we ended up on the church steps soaking up the sun, which has been sorely missed these last months. All the spaces on the steps ended up filled so the denizens were a bit cramped. Janie’s crew arrived after a mass and blessing, not hard to find around here. More browsing. I found some little plates for a sensible price which I had sought for weeks in order to serve tiny dolci, the best kind. Janie found the EXACT piece for her bedroom to hold the TV and maybe socks and underwear. Random visitors were greeted. I went off with Doran to see a trendy furniture show in the former military fort. Nice contrast. More browsing, with wine. More people in the piazza than at any time all winter. Duh. Lots of tripe sandwiches were sold plus honey, cheese, oil, wooden things, books, pottery, picture frames, incense, purses, African masks, 50s jewelry, old shoes, furniture, bed spreads, candied fruit. Everything. One of the best parts of this adventure is to be so close to the action. With the advent of the nice weather and the tourist season, it’s only going to get better.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Italian Bus Incident #67

Well, I have had rather a mess to deal with: my wallet was pinched out of my purse Monday afternoon around 2pm. For whatever idiotic reason I went to inquire about a job opening for which I was totally unqualified since I DON'T SPEAK ITALIAN! (in my defense, they asked only about madre lingua English which of course, I am/have/can/do/whatever.) So I was on my way home on the #6 bus and it was really jammed and well, you know. But I was in a hurry because I had an appointment with a plumber to fix my caldaia because it shut off on Friday afternoon - when it snowed 2 inches - so I was without heat or hot water all weekend so I slept on Janie's couch rather than brave the 12 degrees in the apartment. I was out of cash and had no money for the plumber so I hurried to the bancomat and that's when I discovered the theft. I screamed and swore and attracted undue attention (screaming old lady, nothing to see here, move along). And the fucker cancelled anyway! So I called Sonia (la proprietaria) who was not pleased because I have had to call her 4 times about this and she thinks I'm an idiot because it is usually just the pressure has gotten low (except none of the people I know have this problem with their heating equipment) so she called the tecnico but said he had "un sacco di chiamate" because of the minus one cold so I lose hope. But when I get home the first plumber calls and says he's arriving so I call Nikkie to translate and front the cash. He comes, pushes one little button (WHICH I PUSHED!! ah, but not long enough) and voila, hot water and heat. Curses. I am an idiot. And then we wait until Nikkie arrives with the cash and translates my million questions while I'm making a list of who to call to cancel all the cards and get info about a new passport. And then the OTHER guy calls twice but my phone is dead and the charger is at Janie's but she's waiting in line at the quaestura in -1 degrees (the twit!) because she just HAS TO HAVE her permisso di soggiorno, and I can't get my charger. And then the tecnico actually arrives and we have this awkward two plumbers dance until Nikkie learns that the second guy is really a caldaia specialist so plumber number 1 (P#1) gets 20E and goes away and the other guy tears the boiler apart for an hour and Nikkie goes home leaving a dinner invitation for later. Eventually plumber number 2 (KB: "Tutto bene?" P#2: "Speriamo!" = let's hope) goes away planning to mail a bill (WHICH SONIA WILL MOST DEFINITELY PAY!) and I spend the next three hours calling everyone I need to to keep from having my credit ruined and a billion bad charges on my cards. So I eat with Luca and Nikkie and regale them with the Karma of Kimberly stories and they lend me 50E so I am not totally green. Yesterday at 8 am I went to the consulate (Ma signora, aperto alle nove) with filled in forms and documents of all kinds (thank dog I had copied all the cards in my wallet before we went to Poland) but am sent home to make an appointment online for today, which I do. And then in the afternoon I went to UniCredit to cancel the bancomat card and get 300E out of my Italian bank so I can feel normal and buy coffee. Almost. I still don't have any ATM or credit cards. Today I hit the consulate at 9, am nearly stripped naked, relieved of anything sharp or shiny to stand in line while hapless Italo-Americans plead for succor over lost/stolen/incomplete/forgotten/whatsits. Eventually I submit my supremely efficient materials and learn that I will get a fully valid passport which will save me at least $850 because I won't have to change flights or shovel out cash for an expedited passport which is fundamental to the whole stupid reason I'm going back. And this adventure only cost me $100. Today I went to see the Carabineri to make a "denuncia" (sounds like some Emile Zola j'accuse! thing requiring black balls and pointing). I managed the whole thing in Italian without sounding too stupid, (well except for getting ripped off on the bus for god's sake) Great.
As for Christmas: I am invited to dinner with Nikkie, Luca at Gabriele's who is squatting at the home of Birgitta (she's in Burkino Faso. Burkina Faso?!!?) We will have traditional Christmas Eve fare: tortelloni in brodo. On Christmas Day I will have The First Annual Orphans' Christmas Feast and Gift Exchange. If they all leave on time, I am invited to Fawn's for family Christmas that evening at her Mother-in-law's and I will have a party on 31st here. I am grateful for my friends and hoping to see the ones in Berkeley when I get back. Can I camp at your place occasionally?