2013 categories12th entry – christmas 2013
These are collections of postings.
Kaua’i – 2013
le marche – 2013
christmas – 2013
These are collections of postings.
Kaua’i – 2013
le marche – 2013
christmas – 2013
Had to have the sewer pipes dug up, because water from the shower was finding its way into the basement.
The image, right to left – the green kitchen window sill, the outside kitchen wall, the outside-stack that drains the toilet, bathtub and sink, the downspout, the alley and the fence. (Click the small thumbnail to see the large image.) The break that brought water into the basement was at the base of the outside-stack. (Very lucky to have the break this close to the surface.) The reason we were only seeing water is that the break was a crack in the terra-cotta pipe and as such didn’t let waste products through. The water created a sink-hole that brought the water down, and through the basement walls. The sink-hole is where the stack is connected to the blue plastic pipe.
The job is to reconnect the downspouts to the storm-drains and the stack to the sewer line; then fill the hole back up and wait for it to settle before cementing the area.
Today, even though it was miserably cold – a wind chill factor dropping temperatures below zero – the plumbers did all the pipe replacement. The inspector even came by.
The dig represents an even bigger hole than the one shown in the last post. On Saturday, we made a decision to dig to the basement-wall and replace all the terra-cotta coming from the basement to the end of the dig. The new hole is easily 12 feet long and 10 feet deep.
New PVC was also inserted into the 6 inch terra-cotta still in the ground and going to the sewer. Fifteen feet of new PVC went into the old terra-cotta.
The last work is to put back all the dirt. (Yes, the PVC has to be trimmed, but that will take little time.)
Home repairs are a quagmire. I got three bids for this job. The first one came in at $26,000 with the plumber claiming to bring in a conveyor belt that would move the earth to a dump-drunk in the alley. And he would line the terra-cotta with a resin. (Lining the terra-cotta with a resin sheath is for environments with large trees. The sheath prevents the roots from breaking and clogging the sewer pipe. There are few trees in my neighborhood and tree-roots invading sewer pipes is not an issue in this part of town. Also the resin sheath is very expensive.) I did not go with this bid.
The next bid was for $20,000. The contractor told me that this was not the kind of work he did, but given that no plumber was giving me a workable bid, he would dig and subcontract the plumbing. He was clear about over-estimating the bid, because he didn’t know what was involved and he wanted to make sure all OSHA guidelines were followed. I did not take this bid.
The third bid was from a Calabrese plumber that I had used before and who had done good work. I had contacted him about the job back in October, but he was busy and didn’t get back to me until Christmas Eve. We were able to negotiate a decent time-and-materials contract and he got the job.
Day seven has been an inside-work day. The temperatures stayed below zero. The only bright spot was the lack of howling wind to dip them even lower. And the plumbers went to another job site that had them working indoors. I’m hoping that by the end of the week, they will have all the PVC connected, the hole filled, and the debris hauled.
The image shows the hole with the three pipes. The pipe with the elbow is the connector from the outside-stack and into the sewer. (The black lines, on the top right and below this pipe are frozen water. This is the sink-hole that the leak had created. And the sink-hole was steering the water from the bathtub and sink into the basement.) One of the vertical pipes is a vent and the other is the connector for the downspout carrying the rain water. (The PVC lying on the ground will be used to connect the downspout to the system.)
In the bottom of the image is the connector-ring into the existing terra-cotta sewer line. (They used the yellow extension cord to hook up a heater. I don’t how they worked yesterday in the bitter, bitter cold.)
I’ll have to revisit these big-dig posts and rename them. (However, I do like the alliteration and the fact that the ultimate Big Dig was in Boston.)
The weather has messed up the schedule wildly. Something that should have taken a week has gone on for three, because the ground is frozen and the outside temps are super freezing.
Now the question is, will my back-yard be cleaned up for spring? I keep telling myself, that come spring, there will be no evidence of the digging and mess that is the back-yard now. That has become my mantra each time I look out back. The only convenience of the freeze and snow is that the mud covering everything is frozen (The brown swirls on the bricks is, in warmer weather, mud.) and I can let the dogs out into the back-yard. For three days this week, when the temps were in the 60’s, the dogs had to go for walks. Hate that routine.
The warm weather this week allowed the plumbers to finish the stack-and-sewer work, fill in the hole with gravel, remove all the muck and clay they had dug up and wash everything down. The back-yard and the side-yard look great. (Mr. Merante came today to trim and cap all the above-ground pipes. Yesterday there was still this tall, white plastic pipe in the middle of the grey gravel.)It’s hard to believe that last week there was still a 12-by-15 feet hole on the side of my house. A hole that went easily 10 feet down to the sewer pipes.
The next project will come in the spring when the contractor can cover the gravel with cement. In the meantime, he will expand the landing, outside the door, over to the new fence. BTW, the flower pot is a place-holder, breaking up the monotony that is the grey gravel. (The narrow area beside the landing was not dug up, so there is no need to wait and see how it will settle. I am curious to see the settlement on the newly filled hole. )
I was in Sault Ste Marie the last week-end of March and went driving down old Highway 17. There is now a by-pass north of Garden River and Echo Bay and the old highway had become the local road through the small hamlets and reservations along the St. Mary’s River. I always drive the old highway, because it’s the road I remember from when I lived there. It’s also the road with the declaration – THIS IS INDIAN LAND – scrawled on the rusting train trestle over the Garden River.
Parallel to the old highway are the CPR train tracks and for the first time, I realized that those were the tracks we rode on the last leg of the journey that brought us from Aprigliano to Sault Ste Marie.
We had begun the journey in Aprigliano. As my childhood friend said, the walk from our home to the town square where we got into a friend’s car was like a death march. He and I held hands as we walked in silence. Two little boys not knowing what the future would bring.
We got onto a train in Cosenza and the next stop was Naples where we boarded the boat that brought us to Halifax. And from there we were put onto trains to make our way to Northern Ontario and my grandparents’ house.
To read this series in chronological order,
click on the category title – kaua’i – 13.
This is a preliminary entry to get the formatting set up and tested for this new category.
The image is of my cousin Rose’s hand holding a plumeria flower which we found on the ground as we walked the suburb south of the Princeville condo compound. I like the 4 pieces that make up this image. (left-to-right – the black, the fingers, the white and yellow blossom, the second black bracketing the flower, and finally the blur of white and skin-color.)
I head out Friday, April 12, leaving Pittsburgh at the crack-of-dawn and getting into Lihue 13 hours later. (The good part of this long, outbound trip is that I get to Kaua’i at 2:00 in the afternoon – traveling with the sun and getting added time whoa!)
To read this series in chronological order, click on the category title – kaua’i – 13.
The flights to Kaua’i were all on-time as a matter of fact got into Phoenix half-hour early, but then had to wait for a gate assignment. (Sky Harbor is fast becoming the Kennedy Airport of the west.)
Coming west is always great, you gain time. I got here at 2:00 in the afternoon and had the rest of the day. (I was done by 7:30 and just went to bed and slept the next 10 hours.)
This morning we hit the farmers’ market in Kilauea. It has grown from last year – many more vendors. Naturally we walked out with so many fruits and vegetables that a woman from California who saw us carrying our stash to the condo, stopped us to take a pic. (The above pic is of our purchases – beets, limes, green-onions, papaya, eggfruit, carrots, kale and avocado.)
Been wanting to taste coconut-water for a while and this morning I went and bought a fresh coconut. It’s a relatively bland drink, but supposedly full of nutrients. (After you drink the water, you bring it back to the stall and the farmers splits and scoops out the coconut pulp. The white pulp was too soft for my taste.) Our discovery this year was eggfruit a fruit that reminds me most of persimmon, but a hard-boiled egg consistency.
To read this series in chronological order, click on the category title – kaua’i – 13.
Let me begin with the beets. At the farmers’ market, Rose and Derrick bought a bunch of beets. Surprising, but I chalked it up to over-enthusiasm. When we got to making supper, Rose put the beets to boil, but had the green tops in a colander ready to fry. What, I had never heard of eating fried beet greens. They were delicious, as good as rapini. (I eat beets with Sarah and Welch, never knew Derrick grew up eating beets.)
It’s Sunday morning and it looks like the rain is on hiatus. Sitting around having coffee and up in the mountains I saw the left arc of a rainbow. Shot some pics, but not the best. (Am working on using Manual with the D700 and Aperture priority with the D800e. Am not always getting the exposure I want, but I’ll never figure it out if I don’t keep at it. So far my most difficult step is relying on the bar-graph that lets me know if I’m over-exposing or under-exposing. I need to learn how to associate the numbers with these rather than the bar-graph.)
The above image is from the lanai looking north. It’s the clouds above the 13th hole.
and yet I passed along the enchanted way . . .
First, the image – it’s the seabirds at the wildlife refuge at the Kilauea Lighthouse Photoshopped into green hues.
Second, the fantasy – the enchanted way. (The title and first line are from Patrick Kavanagh’s poem On Raglan Road.) The island is surreal. One side is wild and inaccessible and the other side is Disneyland houses and gated communities. This morning we walked the Prince Golf Course and it was littered with young men playing in the fields of the One-Percent. The cart-paths were a magic carpet. And walking these undulating landscape you can pretend a new reality – everyone is young, everyone is rich, everyone is white and everyone is straight. The old ghosts have been banished, but the new gods have clay feet. Fuck!
I’m continuing to use pieces of Patrick Kavanagh’s poem On Raglan Road. The title is a line from the third verse.
This was our first day on the beach and in the sun.
The North Shore has been overcast and rainy the last three days so we headed south. (The northern part is one of the wettest areas on the island.) Forecasters promise a cloud free end-of-the-week. But the stone and rain gods that live in the mountains behind us may not agree. (The cloud cover is absent in the morning and at sunset. The image is from the lanai that wraps the condo and provides an outdoor space where we sit, eat breakfast, dinner and hope for blue skies. I took it early in the morning and it’s been tinted and pushed into purple)
The beach at Maha’ulepu is the southern most accessible point. (Last year this was where we saw the kite-surfers.) The road is red clay and full of holes and requires a slow, slow drive. But once there, you are free of the One-Percenters who have turned off their brains and turned on their appetites.
I use this trip to figure out what cameras and lenses to bring to Italy. So, I brought the D700 and D800e. I am enjoying the 38.3 megapixel images, but these two high-end cameras are better in slow and controlled environments. In Le Marche there will be enough situations – churches, museums, mirrors – where I’ll need the auto functions of the D90.
The North Shore was ablaze today. (The image, shot from the lanai at the condo, is the sunset over Hanalei Bay.)
I spent the morning at the Princeville Botanical Gardens shooting the amazing flowers and native plants. I have all these images for a new gallery. It will be my first flowers gallery in several years. It was a great tour with information on local flora and fauna and a chocolate tasting lesson. The family that owns the land is beginning to grow cocoa and making their own chocolate. The lesson had us tasting various chocolates and trying to identify the surrounding plants, because they gave the cocoa bean an added flavor marker. My favorite was dark chocolate from E. Guittard a San Francisco based chocolatier.
In the afternoon, I joined the One-percenters at the pool – distesi al sole.
The trek down to The Queen’s Bath is difficult, but the views from the lava-rock cliffs are amazing. The trail-head is in one of the priciest sub-division on the island. Senator Barbara Boxer has a condo in the complex. The trail is steep but scenic following a stream that trips into a waterfall and then spills dramatically into one of the ocean lagoons. (Two years ago a local was showering under this waterfall. All I could think of was – left-over hippie.)
At the bottom, there are signs everywhere cautioning visitors that this is one of the most dangerous spots on the island and yet people still dive from the cliffs into the small lagoons-pools or dangle over the lava-shelves to better see the giant sea-turtles. What’s misleading is that the cliffs are relatively low giving a false sense of safety. Nowhere else on the island are the cliff-faces low or accessible.
The image is of a hollow crab-casing that some industrious sea-bird left behind after it feasted on the sweet white meat.
I’m using this trip to step away from the auto settings of the D90 and into the more controlled setting of aperture-priority. This has always been my default mode, but I want to become knowledgeable enough with it to anticipate what the image will look like.
make way for other toys. One grey night it happened . . .
We were determined to shoot the sunset and this morning on our way down to the Queen’s Bath we saw the perfect spot for our night shoot. All evening we kept vigil and at 6:30 we took off, (It was a two camera shoot.) and drove down to the fancy suburb. The first empty lot did not have a path to the golf course, to the cliff. We tried the next empty lot and there on the left was a path. As we walked down a woman with a glass of white wine looked down from her cantilevered deck and reminded us that we were on her property. She didn’t get cranky, she actually said it was OK for us to walk through. (Did I look upscale, part of the 1%, with my two fancy cameras slung over my shoulders?)
The shot is taken form the 7th Tee. That is what you see at the bottom of the image. Below us is Hanalei Bay and the sleeping dragon.
far away over the sea are calling, calling . . .
The shot is from the ridge of Waimea Canyon. We went hiking and when the mists moved through the valley there was the Pacific and there was the sailboat. The entire hike was a hide-and-seek experience, one minute you saw nothing, at the next outlook the mist had moved enough to see the ocean. The trail straddled two canyons – on the left the drop led to blue water, on the right to lush green inland. This morning the mist played on the ocean side.
The south western part of the island – Waimea Town area – is large scale farming. You don’t see the black lava-rocks of the north or the hard red clay soil of the East Side. Instead the ground is covered by rich soft earth, buganvilla is everywhere and below the canyon mountains the plain runs flat to the sea. This haven is not a large area and a short drive north leads into desert.
We are finally done with winter, the digging, the dirt-mound, the mud and the wet basement. It’s even been long enough for the fill to settle and the nest step is to cement the area with the dark-gray slag.
The first step in getting the side-yard renovated was to widen the platform in front of the back-door. (In the post – the big dig5 – the trough, that had been the far-end of the flower bed, was still there.) The new platform goes all the way to the new fence. The bricks now have a subtle pattern, the big-blue marble and the two flower pots decorate the pad. And two severely shaved dogs, that as recently as last week looked like matted sheep-dogs, round out the image of the next phase in the renovation. (Bilby is in the foreground, Gurl is in the back.)
Once the cement is poured, I will put four large pots with shade-loving plants on the new surface. (I’ve decided to go with the composite pots rather than the Italian terracotta, because I intent to leave them outside all year. The terracotta pots deteriorate when left out all winter.) I’m going to fill one pot with flag – iris. (There are huge cement pots in front of the boiler plant on Federal Street filled with flags and the iris seem to do well. So, I’m going to try the same thing in the side-yard.)
The image is through the glass at the back of the Chapel of the Transfiguration at Emery House. (I’m outside, shooting into the chapel.) So, what can you see – my head, red azaleas, outside steps, green hillside. Inside, on the left is a schefflera, (The superimposed ferns are outside, behind me and reflected in the glass.) then the altar with candles, a wooden statue of Francis of Assisi, mother-in-law’s tongues, chapel chairs, philodendron leaves. The layers in this image are what I like best especially the steps that cascade through the middle.
The post-title is from the 1961 Ingmar Bergman film of the same title. And he took it from 1 Corinthians 13, verse 12. Through a Glass Darkly is the first film in his Silence of God trilogy. I don’t like Paul’s New Testament diatribes, but I like Bergman’s films. The old construct is from the King James. The modern translation – Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror – turn this prepositional diamond into dollar-store bling.
The seasons in Newburyport, Massachusetts are about two weeks behind Western PA.
I’m walking the trails on the Emery House property through meadows full of yellow dandelion and dandelion seed-heads. And low to the ground another genus sprouts among the tall green grasses. The white petals are wet with dew, they twinkle in the morning light. (I had thought of bringing my iPod, but once I was out in the sunlight, hearing the birds, the iPod would have been the antithesis to the naturalness around me.)
The western sky glowed with the setting sun. We had just sung Compline and I was walking the road back to the cottages and decided that I needed to shoot the evening clouds. Clouds laced with the fading light of day.
After Compline, The Great Silence begins. There’s a map in the office of Emery House designating the area where The Great Silence is to be observed. (Did the monks in medieval Europe have a map delineating where one could talk?) It’s amazing to me that I am on a 150 acre farm north of Boston, in Yankee, Protestant New England following Catholic monastic rhythms.
maker of all to you we pray. that with your ever watchful love, you guard and keep us from above.
help and defend us through the night, danger and terror put to flight. never let evil have its way, preserve us for another day.
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
ché la diritta via era smarrita.
in the middle of my late years, i find myself in a dark wood
Title – The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
Quote – La Divina Comedia, Canto Primo dell’Inferno, Dante Alighieri
This will serve as the prologue for the journal entries of the 2013 trip to Le Marche.
It’s early June and I’m exactly two months away from leaving for Rome, but I want to tell the story of the horror that is booking through Alitalia.
Back in October, we booked three seats from Toronto to Rome to Ancona. We would be flying Alitalia all the way. But, the tickets were booked through Delta. (We were willing to drive to Toronto so that we could fly into Ancona.) We’ve been experimenting with flying into smaller cities to see if we can make the trip to Isola di Fano shorter and easier. Last year, we flew into Bologna but that became an experience we never want to repeat. Unknown to us foreigners, Bologna is the entry point for vacationers going to the Adriatic beaches. First it took us 4 hours to get through the rent-a-car line and then a trip that should have taken an hour-and-a-half took us 5 because of beach traffic between Bologna and Rimini. For this year we settled on Ancona, believing that we would not hit beach traffic.
Ticketing was a bit difficult, but the Delta agent got us seats and just asked that we check with Alitalia to confirm the seats between Rome and Ancona. By the end of November we had all our seats. (I was a bit anxious, just because it had been a lot of work to get the tickets. And in Kaua’i we agreed to touch base with Delta and make sure everything was on track for the August trip.) Last week, Rose got a phone call saying that the Rome – Ancona leg of the trip had been cancelled by Alitalia. The next couple of days were horrible. She called Delta repeatedly, but they had no access to Alitalia’s new partner for flights between Rome and Ancona. Alitalia would not help, insisting that the ticket was booked through Delta and therefore Delta was obligated to fix the problem. (I even spent a couple of hours at the Pittsburgh airport with an agent to see if she could help. Nothing!) Delta could not get seats from Alitalia, and Alitalia would not let us book on its new partner. (We had already booked a rent-a-car at the Ancona airport. We had already booked hotel rooms for the Saturday before the trip home.) Alitalia refused to help in anyway shape or form and no one at Delta knew how to get to Alitalia. Delta’s option was to refund the ticket.
After much cursing and swearing, we agreed that we would not win against Alitalia and that we had to re-group and figure out how to minimize our financial losses. Rose came up with an absolutely elegant solution. She re-booked the three seats through Delta. I’m flying from Pittsburgh to Detroit, meeting up with Rose and Derrick in Detroit and then fly on to Rome. The return is the same. So we don’t have to drive to Toronto, pay airport parking for two weeks and then drive home. In Rome we will pick up a car and drive the 3 hours to Isola di Fano.
Last summer we walked into this church in Pesaro and taped to the podium was this wonderful poster – Tu sei bellezza – announcing the pilgrimage from Loreto to Assisi. When I got home and did some research, I found that the walk is an annual event sponsored by the Frati Minori d’Italia – Franciscan Brothers of Italy. The poster is what I was amazed by – its design, its concept, its colors, its use of the Gothic Annunciation to frame the title – Tu sei bellezza – You are beauty. Every year in late July, early August the pilgrimage goes from a religious center in central Italy to Assisi. Given that the 2012 walk went from Loreto to Assisi, using Mary in the poster was correct, consistent and celebratory. The designer of the poster cropped the figure of the Virgin from the altar piece – Annunciation with St. Margaret and St. Ansanus – by the Italian Gothic artists Simone Martini and Lippo Memmi. The poster is built around the cropped image of the reluctant young woman receiving Gabriel’s announcement in her study. The altarpiece has the following words coming out of Gabriel’s mouth – Ava gratia plena Dominus tecum (Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee).
This year’s poster announces Chi Crede Cammina – Who Believes, Walks. It features two figures, a young person and a Friar with back-packs, walking on shallow water. In its Italian incarnation the title is all about alliteration. Each word begins with a hard c sound. (BTW, the titles of both the 2012 and 2013 posters use a 6 syllable phrase. Tu sei bellezza is six syllables, Chi crede cammina is six syllables.)
This post is really about the differences between our American approach to religion and the Italians’ view-point. In American, religion is about God and Jesus, superiority, it’s about pointing out others’ faults, it’s about voting against, it’s about Puritan self-righteousness, it’s about the rich being God’s favorites, it’s about suppressing women, it’s about paternalism, it’s white, it’s about social division, it’s about separation, it’s about rejection. It’s not about loving your neighbor, it’s not about taking care of the poor, it’s not about contemplation, it’s not about prayer, it’s not about self-sacrifice, it’s not about ritual, it’s not about holiness, it’s not about Mary, it’s not about Joseph, it’s not about the saints. And it’s certainly not about art. As a matter of fact art and artists are viewed as anti-religion in America.
The Frati Minori are hiring some amazing artists to create art that will publicize the annual pilgrimage. American churches use artists to blow up images of fetuses that are carried in rallies. Posters are homemade and announce doom and gloom or personal hatreds. None of the images of American Christianity are about beauty, inclusiveness, humanity, self-sacrifice, self-reflection.
This is a first – I’ve already written a prologue and two posts for the journal le marche 2013 and I haven’t even left Pittsburgh.
I was watering earlier and when I got to the Mandevillas all wrapped around the Magdalena statue, I had to get the camera. (The sculpture is Alfonso Iannelli a southern Italian immigrant who at 10 years old moved with his family from eastern Campania to the windy city. He worked with Frank Lloyd Wright creating many of the Sprite statues, but Wright never acknowledged Iannelli’s contribution.) The hair, the hair-band, the braids, the vines, the green, the cement, the discreet gesture, the turned head, the lip-stick red trumpet.
The image on the right is all about using a lens made for landscapes to shoot closeup. I discovered this in Maine. Mac and I had been out walking the shoreline in Portland and we headed up to the museum. When we got there, I realized all I had with me was the 12-24 mm lens. In statuary hall, I started getting right up to the pieces and found that the wide-angle gave me great images when I shot real close.
If this post is about technical issues and throwing around a dead architect’s name, then why the reference to the Renaissance city of Ferrara? · · · It was August 14, 2011. We were on our third day in this left-leaning, Emilia-Romagna jewel and walking, in the meager shade, to the museum. And there behind wrought iron posts, on a windowsill littered with dirt, was a single Mandevilla – the image on the left. Of course I stopped the trek and shot the lone plant jailed behind rusting bars. (I had bought Mandevillas for the first time that summer and seeing them in Ferrara was a glimpse of home. I’ve planted them every year since.) It always surprises me to see plants in Italy that I grow in my own back-yard. I’m surprised because I keep thinking that the fauna and flora of Italy should be different than what we have in Western Pennsylvania.
The Mandevillas have now become harbingers of my trip to Italy and from the day I plant them, I begin a count-down to the date I leave. (I’ll have to be more conscientious and protective of this harbinger. Remember, I forgot all about the Snowdrops, the harbingers of spring, when the flower-bed on the side-yard was ripped out.)
Next week at this time I should be on plane heading for Rome.
I began Friday, August 2 by going into work. It was a half-day for everyone and there were items that I was in charge of at the morning meeting. Got home by noon, had a quick lunch and got ready to leave. (Dan and Ellen drove me to the airport.) And given that I like going early, I got to the gate two hours before departure. We boarded on time and then began the nightmare. First, the plane had hit a bird on its way from Detroit and that residue had to be cleaned; next we were over-weight and two airline employees had to get off; then we pull away from the gate only to wait on the tarmac for 45 minutes; by this time the couple behind me who had been on the phone to the airline trying to figure out if they were going to make their connection in Detroit, when it was obvious that they had missed the connection, decided that they would rather remain in Pittsburgh than overnight in Detroit; we went back to the gate to let them off. It was now 4:30, an hour delayed. The flying time was only 38 minutes, but we had to get in the air before that applied.
It was 4:55 before we were in the air. I got off in Detroit at 5:45, and began my sprint to terminal A. (Terminal A is the opposite end of the airport. The whole wait-time I had been in contact with Rose and the were just as anxious because we were going to have to deal with the consequences of my not making the Rome flight.) I literally ran the whole way and got to the gate by 6:00. The lounge was empty, and they had to special open the door into the jet-way. I got to my seat with 10 minutes to spare. (As a sat down the thought of my luggage kept floating through my head. Did it make it onto the plane? If it didn’t how was I going to retrieve it? Was I going to have to drive into Rome on Sunday?) The plane to Rome was this luxurious, huge thing so at least the flight was going to be comfortable.
We got to Rome, the line through customs wasn’t too annoying, my bag was at Baggage Claim, and because we got to the rent-a-car before the crowd, we got our Punta and were on our way by 10:00.
The original plans for this trip were to fly into Ancona, but those fell apart and we were back to driving from Rome to Earle-and-Suzanne’s. Driving out of Rome is like driving out of any modern metropolis. Driving time was three-and-a-half hours and we weren’t scheduled to have access to the house until 4:00. We kept debating how to stretch the time. We settled on stopping in Todi for lunch. We like Todi.
We got off the highway and made out way up the mountain to beautiful Todi. (The GPS is totally annoying as it keeps repeating – Recalculating, recalculating …) We actually go in to see the inside of the famous church outside the walls of the ancient city. (The last time we were here, the church was closed and a couple from the UK took our picture sitting on the wall outside the church.)
Parking is always a problem in the hill-towns, and we were practically outside the walls before we found a spot. As Rose and Derrick were negotiating the parking machine, the owner of the restaurant came out to tell us that on Saturday parking was free between 1 and 4. I looked at the place he came out of and decided that we needed to go in there with the locals and have lunch. It was a great first meal.
This year the farmers from up the road are running two tractors. Both the old farmer and his son are plowing. Last year one plowed while the other spread manure. This year, the manure was all spread when we got here. Earle mentioned that they have been plowing every day for the last two weeks. And they are plowing the fields around Earle-and-Suzanne’s. In the morning they are outside the the kitchen window. They begin at sunrise, and go till about 11:00. They will begin again around 5:00. (I want to ask some questions – what is the family’s name, why are they running two tractors, given that they leave behind huge lumps of earth, will they re-plow when it’s time to plant, what is in line for planting, and who do they sell the harvest to?)
The family name is Finocchi. The old man is the father and his name is Fausto;
the younger man is his son and his name is Fabrizio.
They will re-plow in the spring before planting. (OMG, do all that plowing again!)
The sunflowers are planted every four to five years and only the heads are harvested;
the stalks are plowed under to replenish the soil.
The farmers in the valley belong to a farming co-operative based in Isola di Fano.
Also, this year the region is much greener. Last year it all looked and felt dry and dusty, parched. And this summer that desert feel is gone. They had a wet winter and the water table is much higher. The Metauro has water in it. (Last year the river bed was wet with puddles here and there.) The garden is green; the oleander is tall and full of flowers; the lavender is a rich gray and sprouting blue plumes; the oak trees are dense and a deep green.
Monday is market day in Fossombrone. And the first 5 images in the header slide-show are from the there. (The five images are: olives, zucchini flowers, hot peppers, tomatoes, and Borlotti beans. And my favorite is the zucchini flowers. Rose asked me if I wanted to cook them and I passed. If next week they have them, I’ll buy them and make fritters.) The image on this post is the tray, from one of the non-food vendors, brimming with all the trinkets/charms available to string into a necklace.
For the first time in 3 years, we sat and had lunch on the veranda. (In the past, lunch was a pick-up on our way to somewhere. Many times it was something we bought at the Co-ops and then ate when we got to the next town. Most of these experiences satisfied hunger. The quality of the food was sub-par. The only good experience was last year in San Lorenzo in Campo when we met all those great people. The shop-keeper introduced us to Visner and he even uncorked a bottle of wine for us to take away.)
We had bought this great cheese at the market and lunch gave us a change to eat it slowly and with a glass of wine. The table has on it left-to-right – bread, sopressata and prosciutto, wine, sliced cucumbers, ricotta, and various pecorino cheeses. It was totally relaxing to sit and eat and know that we could still get to an outing. (After lunch we went to Monestario Fonte Avellana – an amazing place.)
Today, there will be three separate postings.
– Fonte Avellana
– after dinner conversation with Earle-and-Suzanne
The Monastery of Fonte Avellana has a checkered history. There were periods when it had a notorious reputation. Today is boasts a library full of ancient manuscripts that the monks diligently copied, wrote and acquired.
It is a sprawling complex in an isolated wooded valley at the feet of Mt. Catria (elev. 5,600 feet above sea level) The monastery was founded in 980. Dante, who stayed here for a while, mentions it in the 21st canto of Paradiso.
Today, the monastery is a shadow of its former self. A community that at one time numbered a couple of hundred is now down to under 20. However, the Italian, Catholic tourist industry has stepped in and the monastery has become a pilgrimage site. The grounds were crawling with people who had just had lunch in the refectory and were waiting out the clock, to getting back on their tour bus, at the picnic tables that littered the visitors area in front of the monastery gift-shop.
The image on the right is of the window in the small refectory. All the windows in the chapter house and chapel are modern stained-glass and beautiful.
This has become the signature picture of each of our stays here at Earle-and-Suzanne’s.
We had an almost vegetarian meal except for the porchetta – rolled pork seasoned with wild fennel and garlic. It’s a local preparation and very popular. (I discovered the rind, baked to hardness and smothered with seasoning.)
Earle joined us for a glass of wine and began talking about his trip to Puglia. I suspected that it was connected to his interest in restoring some ruin. And sure enough he told us that they are close to sealing a deal to buy and restore and four-cone trulli. These are the farmhouses of Puglia, where the itinerant farmers lived and worked the fields for the padrone. They are unique to Puglia and their cone roofs are famous. They will restore it and rent it out much like they do the house here in Le Marche.
We will be one of their first renters.
Today we decided to venture close to home and go looking for the pecorino cheese cured in a hole in the ground. Cartoceto was our destination.
We had never been to this area and I kept thinking that it would be nothing like our little corner of Le Marche. And again the idea that Le Marche is really found off the main roads proved true. (I kept thinking that nothing off the SP-78 could be worthwhile and yet today was wonderful.)
Cartoceto is another hill-town and on the ridge. This area of Le Marche is about owning the hill-tops and leaving the valleys to the farmers. (Our area is about owning the valley, because that’s where the Metauro runs, and leaving the sides of the valley to the farmers. Here the water of the Metauro is the currency of power.) What I liked best about Cartoceto is that across the valley was its cemetery. The town’s windows look out onto the valley and onto the cemetery on the opposite ridge. (Aprigliano has the same set up. Looking south-east, the Apriglanese look onto the cemetery.) In the image, the cemetery is at the top of the ridge on the left. We drove there hoping to take a picture of Cartoceto from the opposite ridge, but the cemetery was a walled enclosure with no openings
This year the sunflowers – girasoli – are everywhere. Earle said that they are more of a replenishing crop than a cash crop. The heads are harvested and the stalks plowed back into the ground.
We stopped in a field of sunflowers outside Todi and then yesterday on our way home, we saw a field with yellow heads above Isola di Fano and stopped. Unless the plants are young and you are shooting them as they reach for the sun, they are not interesting. So, I’m looking for a field of recently bloomed plants and a field I can get to where the flowers are facing me. (The Italian word – girasole – means turns to follow the sun. I need to find a field where they are turning and looking at me.)
We went south specifically to see this painting. It’s in the cathedral in San Ginesio.
We walked into this dark church and are looking everywhere, and I spot it behind the altar. We start taking pics, but it’s a weird angle, so I go up the gate and find that the lock is not closed. Derrick and I open the gate and walk into the monks’ stalls and now we’re shooting the painting right on. Don’t you know it, this pretend priest comes in and at first says nothing and then goes off yelling at us. (He screamed something about an alarm going off.) We played the tourist card and left. But I got the shot.
When we get back to Isola di Fano, I’ll add more info about the painting. (The connection here at the hotel is sporadic and I’m amazed it stayed on long enough for me to do this post.) Tomorrow on our way back, we are stopping at another small town to see another rendering of La Madonna della Misericordia – Our Lady of Mercy. It’s a new awareness learning the word misericordia, because it sounds like another word in a famous Italian curse – porca miseria. I grew up listening to the old Italians cursing, and to re-imagine the new word as connected to Mary saving people from the Black Plague, and not to remember the cursing is work.
This particular rendering has a name – Madonna del Populo – by Pietro Alemanno; it is signed and dated 1485.
Ascoli Piceno has the same problem as Reggio di Calabria. Everyone refers to these two cities by the first part of the name.
Also, the people at the hotel kept saying Ascoli with the emphasis on the first syllable. And this morning, two other guests were talking about Offida again putting the emphasis on the first syllable and it dawned on me, that I’ve been pronouncing the words wrong. Also, that once you say the word with the emphasis on the first syllable, there is no need for a second consonant sound at the end. (I’ve been wanting to spell Orvieto and Loreto with double t’s.) Now I understand that the double consonant at the end of the word is the clue to changing the emphasis from the first to the last syllable. The example is Abruzzi. The emphasis is on the last syllable. (It’s taken my a long time to figure this out, but then I’m finally using Italian enough to begin to relearn the language.)
American English generally puts the emphasis on the last syllable. This tends to slow the language down. Italian with its emphasis at the beginning or the word allows for a much faster speaking speed, because you don’t stop to emphasis the ending, rather you are speeding up and onto the next word.
The images is of the top of one of the two matching fountains in the Piazza del Duomo. (An inland city dreaming of sea-horses and fish?)
Ascoli’s Piazza del Popolo is both beautiful and famous. It’s one of a few main piazzas with large, flat paving-stones rather than the more common single stone to make the flooring. One guide-books refers to it as Le Marche’s living-room.
In one corner is the famous Caffè Meletti. The Caffè opened in 1904 and still has period decor. We went in last night and ordered their famous Anice. I like it way better than the Sambuca, because it’s more herby and less sweet. My goal once I get back home is to figure out where I can buy the Meletti Anice.
I really liked Ascoli and would gladly go back, I just have to figure out how to identify a decent place to eat, because the suggestions from both the hotel and the people online were not very good. (I suspect the hotel people were pushing restaurants that they had a connection with and the online people are too jaded to recognize a good restaurant.)
For the first time in 3 years it rained – unbelievable!! After the rain, the sky was a wonder and I shot it from my bedroom window and then I ran up the road and just shot and shot. The red is the sunset hitting the clouds; the horizon is the hilltops looking south-east. I brought the tripod thinking I would shoot the full moon, but I missed it, (Tonight there’s the sliver of a new moon.) but never expected to shoot the night sky after a rain.
We had spend two days down south and coming back north, it was great to have rain and to see the northern sky after such and unusual disturbance. Fausto Finocchi started to plow, but left when the thunder-gods began to argue. All the soil, in fields around us, has been turned over; we live in an undulating landscape of earth tones.
We had supper on the porch and watched the sky redden. I had to run and shoot it. (The last time i shot a sky this red was two years ago in December in Sault Ste Marie.)
Sarnano is a small town in the foothills of the Sibillini the mystic mountains. (The dark-green fungal circles marking the grassy hillside are where the goat-footed witches come to dance at midnight. And from caves in the craggy mountains clairvoyant sibyls delivered prophecies in ancient times. Countless female-centred cults held sway in these mountains at one time or another, and one modern academic points out that, viewed from the air, seven ancient churches scattered across the Sibillini mountaintops replicate the arrangement of the stars in the constellation Venus. Witches, soothsayers, devils, goblins. How could there not be such things in such an otherworldly landscape?)
The medieval borgo with its narrow, steep streets culminates in a silent piazza at the top. There in a small church is a second Madonna della Misericordia by Pietro Alemanno. The central figure is very similar to the one in San Ginesio, but her robe covers fewer people. (It’s too bad that the painting is not displayed as well as the one in San Ginesio. In front of the painting is a smaller one of the crucifixion. Apparently this smaller piece is paraded through the old town on feat days.) In the crypt are two frescoes attributed to Alemanno. (On the pews were the weekly missals, the cover was Alemanno’s madonna cleaned up and minus the smaller crucifixion. Rose borrowed one to take back to Michigan.)
Sarnano had Wi-Fi signs all through the old borgo. It like Gubbio gives anyone in the old town access. I guess it’s the least they can do for anyone still willing to live in its steep, stone paved alleys.
The heat spell may have broken. We can only hope. We even have the windows open, there’s a breeze and the sun is, at times, hidden by huge white clouds. (When the heat and sun reign, the house is all shut and you live in the dark. Not something I really mind, but Rose has a very hard time with the enclosed atmosphere.)
One of the things that I like about staying here is that we can eat at our own pace and we can eat what we want. The Italian schedule of eating lunch before 1:00, because all restaurants close for the afternoon, and supper after 8:00, when the heat is gone, is hard to adapt to when you are a tourist and not used to the rhythms. We usually get to a place close to 1:00 and it’s a mad rush finding somewhere for lunch. And in Ascoli, the two places we ate at were disappointing.
I walked down the hill, because I want to shoot Earle-and-Suzanne’s and the Finocchi’s farm and land to try and capture the vastness of the mountain-side that these two properties sit on. However, a totally different image became the highlight of the afternoon descent. The image on the right happened after I had shot the mountain-side and was on the provincial road. (At 2:00 in the afternoon, no Italian would be caught dead outside. It’s too sunny and too hot. But today there was a nice breeze, so I figured I could try and walk. And I also figured it would be safe walking the busy road, because everyone would be home hiding from the sun and heat.)
I’m on the provincial road and listening for traffic so that I can make sure to be off the road when the cars speed by. I hear a motorcycle and as it comes around the bend I see a young man on a Vespa with no helmet, standing up, arms extended, yelling and screaming for joy while speeding down the road. I got the camera and shot. Wasn’t able to get a clear image as he raced by, hence the blurred one on the right. (He looks a lot like Christian. My nephew wouldn’t do anything like this, would he?)
We ate under the pergola. Dinner was a tomato salad with lots of oily juice to mop up, and a Borlotti beans salad. We had lunch on the porch and supper on the upper terrace. Because the temperature had actually gone down we were able to sit and watch the sun set. The various shades of rust and brown are just comforting and they make the contrasting greens vibrant.
Each year I learn something new, this year I’m learning about fagioli Borlotti. (I have a built in prejudice against beans. In my family beans were associated with poor people and people who lived on farms, not people who lived the the medieval borghi that the Perri family called home in Aprigliano.) We’ve bought a kilo at the farmers’ market in Fossombrone and another at the market in Fano. Last night Rose flavored the beans with a soft sausage from Sarnano. The reason I like them is that they have a soft skin and no bean flavor.
I’m shooting from the upper terrace. The chimney and the clay roof-tiles are on the entrance to Earle-and-Suzanne’s, the second story shutters are on the bedroom Rose and Derrick use, and beyond is the clay hill-side of plowed earth.
Today we traveled to Sassocorvaro in the Urbino province. To get there, you take the road to Urbino and keep following it west into the mountains. The drive along the provincial roads was amazing, everything from Fossombrone to Urbino is new and wonderfully paved and designed. The road down to Ascoli was equally well maintained.
I began to think about legacies. Urbino was a Renaissance center and here we are all these years later and it still is a jewel. Pittsburgh is no longer one of the three corporate centers in America, but we benefit from the legacy of the time it was. The road to Urbino is new, modern and well maintained. (It’s too bad that the roads down south where there in no Renaissance legacy are still narrow, not well marked and full of 90 degree turns.)
Sassocorvaro is a hilltop town above the reservoir in the above pic. It’s a busy place; they were setting up for some kind of festival tonight and the town is full of small restaurants and tourist favoring shops. We seem to be following a couple from Milan the whole time we were in the hill-town. At one point they were talking to an old resident who was explaining where he lived as a young boy. He lived two streets down the mountain-side. (The above pic is of Mercatale, the town at the bottom of the mountain and next to the reservoir created on the Foglia River.)
We had a picnic lunch at a park beside the reservoir and then had a cold coffee at the park restaurant. Nine pine trees were integrated into the restaurant’s interior. The tree trunks were part of the restaurant decor.
Dinner was spaghetti with a light fresh-tomato, onion, garlic and hot spice dressing. We then threw fresh arugula on top. (My dad would be making all sorts of comments about the Americani and how they have no regard for food traditions. Green leaves on top of spaghetti, NO!) We saw the arugula on top of pasta at the restaurant with the pine trees growing in the dining room.
Given that it was a pleasant night we stayed longer under the pergola, long enough for the new moon to become visible in the night sky. We began talking about the next trip that is planned for September 2014. What will be fresh at that time of year? The tomatoes will probably be done, and so will the Borlotti beans. Will we be eating lots of squash, potatoes, cabbage and root vegetables? I kept suggesting that there may still be summer vegetables given the different climate. Don’t think I convinced anyone.
Regardless of the fresh vegetable, it will be nice to be here when the weather is cooler and the mobs are home.
Today was market day in Fossombrone and we went expecting to buy some tomatoes for salad. Almost $80 later, we came out with bread, cheese and more cheese, 4 kilos of Borlotti beans, honey, half a kilo of hazelnuts, and a dozen cucumbers. (Derrick is taking the 4 kilos of Borlotti back to Michigan. This time he is leaving them in the shell and packing them in zip-lock bags. I’m always amazed customs doesn’t seize the various products they bring home.)
Rose and Derrick love the market and I can take pictures of all the various stalls. Today, the cut flowers vendor had some beautiful lavender.
Suzanne was up and telling us that for some reason there are many more people in Fossombrone this August. She suspects that children came home to visit family rather than head to the beach. (Last year the are was almost deserted. Today the parking was very busy and the market was full of people.)
After our expensive market trip, we decided to have lunch on the veranda and then go driving along the north-west ridge of the valley. (The Metauro River is at the bottom of the valley. And Earle-and-Suzanne’s is on the south-east slope.)
We began at San Ippolito another of the Medieval borgo that spires off the ridge. From San Ippolito, using the telescopic lens, I was able to see back to our side of the ridge and make out the Finocchi farm. Next we drove down the provincial road and stopped at Sorbolongo a small borgo that is famous for its snail festival. The valley on the other side is rolling hills and plowed fields, just like our side. Each borgo is situated atop a promontory and looks out at the fields below. The next Medieval fortress was Barchi and the image on the right is the entrance to the old borgo. On either side of the gate are two columns of wicker baskets. Last night they had a festival and these are left from then. In the old town saw a house I would be willing to live in. The house was totally restored, overlooking the valley and the best feature was its walled-in garden. My idea of a house. The garden was like a courtyard well sealed from the world.
The last borgo on the tour was Orciano di Pesaro. It had a modern plaza that was part of the rope climbing museum.
On our way back I wanted to stop at a convent outside of Fratte Rosa, but the GPS is programmed to take us the shortest route and it always messes us up at Fratte Rosa. The white-road back to Earle-and-Suzanne’s was over the hills and through the woods, so we missed the convent.
The first year here everything was new. Last year we explored the area. This year most of the novelty and drive to tourist are gone. We plan market trips and grocery store outings instead. (I guess that happens when you’re familiar with your surroundings. The day-to-day activities become the ordinary.) The following post is a reflection.
I’ve been trying to figure out why I like being here at Cà le cerque. Is it’s location at the top of a hill, the farm-land that surrounds it, the lack of city noises? The answer is the remoteness of it all. (In Israel, when we were in the Jordanian desert, I understood the stories of the prophets’ finding Yahweh in the desert and in the desert wind.) Here I understand why all the monasteries are in the mountains, why all the holy places are up in the mountains. Guess in ancient lore the sacred and the profane chose to live in the emptiness.
Just like Ferrara made me aware of traffic noise by its absence, Cà le cerque makes me aware of all the ambient noises – TV commercials, iPod music, children, elevators, air-conditioners, humming laptops, phone rings, microwave dings, car radios, garbage trucks, highway rumblings – I live with. Here the cicadas dominate. Their mating calls fill the silence.
After a day of touristing, we come back the outside world is forgotten. I stop thinking about the mobs at the Fano market, the demons speeding the provincial road. The earth tones, the oak trees, the grapevines block all the noises from memory.
Last year we tried to go into the Medieval town in Piobbico – the town of the ugly people – and we got stuck on the narrow road that leads into the borgo and we had to back out carefully making our way out. The road was very narrow, there were cars parked on the right and a fortress wall lined the left side. It was a miserable experience. This year we decided to go back for a caffè shakerato – a cold espresso with sugar syrup and ice shaken in a Martini tumbler and poured into a long stem glass – at our favorite bar. (The young woman asked if we wanted it from the machine or made a mano – done by hand. Obviously we asked that she do it by hand as we watched. She got three low glasses, added ice and a shot of sugar-syrup and brewed the first espresso. She threw the espresso into the glass with the ice and syrup, shoved the glass into the mixer tumbler and vigorously shook it. Then using the sieve on the mixer, she poured the concoction into this elegant glass. It was 1.40 euros.)
After our caffè shakerato, we headed up to the old town. It’s a 15 century fortress complete with ducal palace that Holy Mother Church appropriated. The entrance into the palace is now a courtyard in front of a large church. The rest of the palace is the property of the historical caretakers. (The image is of the campanile of the fortress chapel.) The small borgo is being retrofitted with sewers. I can see it being a very tony place, full of tourists, in a couple of years.
I like the Italian title for Van Gogh’s painting; it’s the title of the post.
Yesterday on our was to Piobbico, we stopped in Acqualagna. It’s the truffle center of Italy. In late October early November the place and the surrounding hills are over-run with Italians going mushroom hunting. The above was a huge piece of fabric hung above the narrow street. The town itself was unimpressive, (Other years, we were never there in time to see anything open.) but Rose and Derrick found a butcher shop that sold wild-bore sausage and they got some.
It’s Van Gogh’s title, it’s the name of the town, I like those sounds. (Alabama is an American word with all a’s, but none of the interesting consonant combinations. The cq and gn are uniquely Italian.)
Everywhere you go in Italy there area idols. Holy Mother Church has legitimized all these by calling them saints, but they are statues of things people idolize and worship.
This morning we went to the restored little hill-town of Torricella di Fossombrone. (Last night the GPS took us all the way down to Pergola, 30 kilometers away, because down there is an official neighborhood called Torricella. When we asked the women, sitting around on the benches outside their homes, if this was the Torricella that had been all restored, they told us that we were looking for Torricella di Fossombrone. Rose had seen the blue sign on our way, close to Earle-and-Suzanne’s, but her suggestion was ignored in favor of the technology.) Sure enough the blue sign led us to the restored fourteen century hamlet.
The reason for the titles is because once again, while trying to do something related to a church, we ran into a mean old man. First the fool in San Ginesio who left the gate open and then yelled at us for going into the sanctuary, today’s mean old man told me that yes he had the key to the church of San Giorgio, but he didn’t give it out. What the hell were we going to do, steal their craven idols? He then condescendingly suggested that I take pictures of the outside of the hamlet. Being a good tourist is hard when you want to give someone the finger.
Meanwhile one of the women that was there with the mean old man was very helpful, telling us how the residents had all worked together to restore the houses. (It’s been a 30 year project.)
Pesaro’s main street goes from the old city center down to the Adriatic. At the terminus on the beach-front, the city put this huge bronze sculpture, the image on the right, which has taken on the name of the artist, rather than the name of the piece. This is all helped by the fact that the sculpture’s last name is the Italian word for tomato. Everyone knows and refers to the sculpture not by its name – Sfera Grande – but as il pomodoro – the tomato.
We went to Pesaro to tour Villa Imperiale, the 14th century castle of Francesco Maria Della Rovere, Duke of Urbino. This was a summer-palace/hunting-lodge for the family. The villa and grounds are still privately owned by the Della Rovere family. And the castle is open to the public one day a week during the summer months. The Della Rovere family like all Italian noble families are closely linked to the papacy. And the narrative of the castle is all tied to the story of the papacy in the 14th and 15th centuries. (I think it’s easy to think that Italian nobility, because it is so tied to the Roman Church, is different than all others. Not true. The difference is that women are totally missing from its ranks, unless you count all the Mary substitutes, and the powerful men all wear Cardinal red.) The villa boasts a series of frescoed rooms the last of which is a portrait gallery of the papal court of one of the Della Rovere popes. The walls are littered with men in red hats.
Across from il pomodoro we got on a tour-bus to go to Villa Imperiale. It’s my first Renaissance palace. The villa’s grandeur is certainly a faded dream. It’s claim to fame these days are the frescoed rooms.
The image on the right is taken from the second floor terrace of the new villa. The original fortress is the building on the right. Francesco Maria’s wife Leonora build a second villa and attached it to the original. The second villa is about open spaces – courtyards and enclosed gardens.
The tour guide did a running commentary in both Italian and English. The Italian had all the juicy pieces, the English version was the bare facts. In Italian he talked about how Francesco Maria, from the family that ruled Urbino, moved the duchy seat from the Renaissance city on the hill in the middle of Le Marche to the coastal city of Pesaro. And ever since there has been a rivalry between these two towns. (The guide being from Pesaro was pre-disposed to his side of the clashes.) The two cities are certainly the cultural centers for this region of Italy. The other large cities of the region are industrial power-houses with little memory of a time when noble families held sovereign control. (One of Francesco Maria’s brothers, didn’t like the fact that a faction in Urbino rioted against him because he raised taxes, after all he had to keep his court in the style it had become accustomed to. So he arrested the leaders of the group brought them to Pesaro and killed them. It’s a good thing the Tea Party ideologues don’t read history.)
The image is the logo of a group that is re-introducing, into the small hill-town of Fratterosa, the old fava beans of their ancestors. The young man at the stand talked about how the old contadini, who lived on the farms surrounding the hill-top, relied on the fava bean for a large part of their diet. (Sarcastic me told him that all the old contadini had left and gone to America. He did laugh.)
Fratterosa is on the hilltop on the opposite side of the valley. We look out our kitchen window and its church tower silhouettes the horizon. The town is also know for its ceramics and tonight they are having a festival celebrating both the fava and the ceramics. (Where last August 15 we went to the Sagra di Polente, this year we are going to eat fava.)
The title only makes sense if you know that fava is an early spring plant. You plant in the fall and the seeds winter in the ground. They are sprouting by early April and the fava is ready to pick by the end of the month. (I remember trying to find fava in the Strip, in Pittsburgh, in late June and the guy told me, they are an early spring bean. I had forgotten that, because in Sault Ste Marie the beans are ready in June. Well that’s because the ground doesn’t defrost until late May.)
We were supposed to go back to Piobbico for the Sagra di Polente, because we did not know enough about other August 15 events in the area. However, Rose strongly suggested we go visit Fratte Rosa and we got to see the set-up for their Ferragosto/Assumption event. It looked interesting enough that we decided to fore go Piobbico and go up to fair in Fratte Rosa. And we’re all so glad we did. (Tomorrow we leave Earle-and-Suzanne’s and begin our trek home.)
In the afternoon we saw signs for a wine-tasting in a sub-basement. (Rose and Derrick read the sign and knew that it was free.) We also saw the menu for a restaurant that featured fava dishes and rabbit. Derrick announced that he wanted to try the rabbit. (I was skeptical of it all, thinking that it would be like the sagra we went to last year – chaotic and not all that interesting.) The event turned out to be amazing.
We began at the wine-tasting for the Terracruda Vineyard. (They were running late and it was 6:30 before they took their first tour. I was thoroughly impatient and was ready to leave. The young man running the testing was very pretentious, but he proved to know his stuff and was an excellent host. We learned about Aleatico grapes. And ended up buying a 3 bottle pack. We so liked the wines that Rose liked their Facebook page and once we get home, we are going to see if we can buy it in the States.) Next we went to the restaurant advertising the coniglio – rabbit. Rose and I ordered the pasta, Derrick the rabbit. The pasta was great, and I asked Rose if she wanted to share a rabbit and fava. We did, and it was amazing.
We came back all hyped about our experience at the Fratte Rosa Ferragosto festival. Because the whole town was part of the festival, you go to go from booth to booth and see many different things. One booth taught how to make pasta. And because it was spread out throughout the whole town it did not feel crowded or oppressive. The pic is of the three of us eating at one of the many tables throughout the town. (Two kids and a stroller behind Rose and I got Photoshopped out.)
Here on a hilltop surrounded by the peaks of the Sibillini, the world of work and responsibilities is far away. This morning we begin our integration back into the rhythms of our day-to-day world. We leave early afternoon and head down to Ancona for the day. We stay overnight and tomorrow we drive down to Rome.
I’ve never been to Ancona. (Frank remembers it from his time here and said the view of the Adriatic from its famous boardwalk is phenomenal.) The hotel, in the center of town, told us we could hang out at the pool while we wait for our rooms to be ready. The integration will be gradual – city, pool, restaurants, tourists.
Tomorrow on our drive to Rome we are stopping at the gardens in Tivoli. There nature has been tamed into ordered gardens and water features. (Did Walt Disney visit Italy before creating his fantasy lands?)
The slide show will also begin to change leaving behind the russets and greens of the valley for the formality of urban life.(The image is of the moon on Ferragosto over the rooftops of Fratte Rosa.)
We got to Rome early and headed over towards the Vatican. We decided to walk Corso Vittorio Emanuele rather than along the Tiber as we did back in 2011. The Vittorio Emanuele bridge that leads into St. Peter’s Square has two columns topped with angels. The image on the right is one of the two angels.
Rome is so unlike any other Italian city. Its wide streets and boulevards were build during the Renaissance and reflect the grandeur of that fabled time. (I believe that what makes this obvious is the size of the city. Rome, Florence and Venice are the three jewels of Renaissance Italy, but Rome is the grandest.) Rome has none of the oppressiveness of the Medieval borgos. It’s airy, full of green spaces and giant sycamores line the banks of the Tiber. The river is no dried-up bed; it’s been dammed and therefore full of water.
We walked through Campo de’ Fiori – the old ghetto – hoping to find a wine bar or restaurant, but Rome is empty of Romans in August and full of foreigners. We ended up in a horrible restaurant where the wine was terrible. The only thing was that it was air conditioned.
It’s been 40 years since I was last in St. Peter’s Square. (I visited during my junior-year-abroad.) Back then, the square was grey, its columns and facades tarnished by soot and age. Also, back then you could walk into the basilica; Michelangelo’s Pietà on the first altar on the right with no glass in front of it.
Today, the square is awash with tourists and security forbids entry into the church without first going through a metal detector and then showing everything in your bag. Also, the thing that amazed me was the brilliance of the white stone columns. In the blue afternoon their white luster radiated off the blazing sun. They are white marble, who knew.
My memory of the colonnade goes back to 1954. My family had come to Rome to secure the documents we needed to travel to Canada. After getting our passports, we went to St. Peter’s. I remember having lunch in the colonnade, its grey pillars a forest sheltering us. After eating, we went into the church and rubbed St. Peter’s foot and prayed for a safe journey. We also brought a souvenir of the statue to give to my grandmother when we got to Canada.
Sixty years later, the square is full of Chinese tourists hiding from the Italian sun under multicolored umbrellas. (Orientals under polka-dotted umbrellas seemed out of place in a Renaissance piazza.) The grey pillars have been cleaned of their memories of southerners looking to leave, looking to find hope in a new land. A land of the British empire, a land antagonistic to their cherished Catholicism.
This was my sixth summer in Italy and a bunch of things fell into place. For example, I learned that I:
need to stay out of the right lane when coming up on a highway exit
(After the exit is a very short entry lane and drivers tend to be aggressive about pulling into traffic.)
This entry is so after the fact. It’s Sunday evening, September 8, three weeks after the trip to Le Marche, but because I want to use the pic on the right, I’m pretending time travel back to Saturday, August 3 …
We’re driving from Rome to Earle-and-Suzanne’s and decide to drive through Todi, one of the towns in Umbria we really like. On the plain below the town, we saw this huge field of sunflowers that still had their yellow petals. We stopped and shot pictures. Rose lifted her iPad and took the image on the right – an old immigrant in a sea of yellow with a sweater complimenting the flower petals.
I’m putting this image in, because it captures the elation, the giddiness of the beginning of the trip. The walking into the field is like a step into the looking glass. We’ve been staying in rural settings the last three years and have never found a field of new sunflowers. It seems that by the time we get here, all we find are mature plants with heads heavy with seeds and ready to harvest. (Found out from Earle that this was a sunflower year, meaning that the crop rotation had come full circle and the farmers were planting sunflowers so that the stalks could get plowed into the soil to replenish the nutrients lost during the last three growing seasons.)
The bookend to this posting is the fact that I left the yellow sweater in the closet in the hotel-room in Ancona. (I never use closets in hotel-rooms, so I never look in them when checking out. In 2009, I left three dress shirts in a hotel closet in Lamezia.) Is the leaving behind part of the sadness, the lethargy of the end of a trip?
When we were in the south, we headed to the Adriatic, to San Benedetto del Tronto hoping to find the Paolo Annibali sculptures along the waterfront. We couldn’t find them. However across the street from the beautiful ocean-front park were two proclamations, scrawled on the white walls of a fancy hotel, exposing the modern condition of isolation-and-sickness through that most virulent of art forms – graffiti.
Some of my countrymen seem to have figured out that affluence is not a gift from God regardless what the Calvinists claim, but a yellow badge that confines the human soul to a gated colony of lepers. And that beauty, as defined by modernity, is more about prosthesis and enhancements than symmetry, elegance and wisdom. (Last summer, the Franciscan Friars proclaimed tu sei bellezza about the Virgin Mary. This summer, in San Benedetto del Tronto, the young anarchists diagnosed beauty’s current condition . . .)
The rich are living in ghettos and the supermodels are dieing of beauty.
It’s Saturday, August 17 and we’ve gotten into Rome early with a goal of getting into St. Peter’s and the Vatican Museums. The Hilton bus leaves us off at the Campidoglio and we walked down Corso Vittorio Emanuele towards the river.
We crossed over on the bridge with the angels and headed down to Via della Conciliazione – the grand boulevard leading from the Tiber into St. Peter’s. It’s the connector between the cloister of the Vatican and the open city of Rome. Forget its symbolic significance, in modern times it’s the street where the pilgrims huddle during papal pronouncements, it’s the street with the Pontifica Academia Pro Vita, (Who said the Italians don’t steal from other cultures? So what that it’s one of America’s most cynical ideas? So what that the word pro isn’t in the Italian dictionary?) and it’s a street with the money changers. You want a knock-off handbag, it’s stacked on the paving stones ready for you to buy – no tax, no receipt.
Does anyone really buy these knock-offs? I can understand getting caught in a rain-storm and resorting to buying an umbrella from a street vendor, but what’s the circumstance that gives one permission to buy a knock-off purse?
Am I that removed that it’s hard for me to believe someone would actually give their money to buy a cheap repro just so that they can pretend to have a designer handbag? What have we done to women’s minds?
The workers are all Africans making their way into a first-world nation, hoping to secure a place in the new world for their children and grandchildren. The Eastern Europeans head inland to work on farms and as domestics, the Africans head for the cities to manage the bancarelle one finds all over Italy. These new immigrants are at all the farmers markets, all around the major piazzas, the famous museums, the famous fountains, the ancient ruins, the empty churches.
The concrete has been poured and the project that was begun last fall is almost complete. The last piece is the gate that belongs at the end of the slab, below the step. The wet summer was the problem. Could not coordinate a cement delivery with a rain-free date. They poured 4 inches of concrete covering the vents and the gravel. (It’s hard to believe that I have a paved side-yard and that now I can figure out what I want the whole to look like.)
My original design was for a cement wall and a cement flower-bed. The price for all that concrete would have been exorbitant and it would have not fit anything that is back there. It also would have changed the draining pattern of the area and would have required a whole new set of drainage pipes to be laid. The wooden fence and the small concrete area work so much better with the overall back-yard layout. (I lost the side-yard flower-bed, but it was always a difficult location for plants. The only things I miss are my snowdrops, but I now have a new location and ordered some 30 bulbs to seed.)
The hose-box, the garbage can and the collapsed lawn-chair are the barriers preventing the dogs from walking on the uncured cement.
The date of the first Sunday of Advent of 1963 was December 1. Fifty years later, the first Sunday of Advent again falls on December 1.
I’m beginning the christmas 2013 posts early, because I’m going to organize them differently. I’m linking these posts to the 8th grade category, because I want to wrap them around some memories of nineteen-sixty-three.
We had moved to the west-end in June and this was my first Christmas at St. Veronica’s. I was curious to see how it would go, because for the first time I had a nun teacher. Was she going to deal with Advent differently than all the non-religious teachers I had had?
The Monday of the first week of Advent, Sister Drusilla lined us up in the hallway – the upper grades were in the old hallway and the younger kids were in the hallway leading to the new wing – and with the sign-of-the-cross she began the Advent service. The young nun who taught first grade picked up from Sister Drusilla reciting the Advent prayers and readings. It ended with us singing O Come, O Come Emmanuel. I liked the Advent service. We certainly didn’t do anything like this at St. Theresa’s.
The time before Christmas was full of anticipation and even though I knew all about Liturgical Advent, it never seemed real hearing about it only on Sunday at church. We did not have an Advent wreath at church, but having the service at school with the wreath on a small table in the hallway with candles that Sister let a kid light, made the season of Advent real.
(For the image, I wanted something that was both modern and non-realistic.)
|Old Calabrese||Modern Italian||Dates and Feast-days|
|quàttru Barbara||quattro Barbara||December 4 – St. Barbara|
|e sei Nicola||e sei Nicola||December 6 – St. Nicholas|
|gòttu Maria||otto Maria||December 8 – Immaculate Conception|
|tridici Lucia||tredici Lucia||December 13 – St. Lucy|
|e ru vinticinqu lu Missìa||e il venticinque il Messia||December 2 – Birth of the Messiah|
When we first got to Sault Ste Marie, my grandmother whose her image is on the left, taught me this rhyme and I remember thinking it was a fun way of marking off the days until Christmas. But as the years went by, I forgot the last part and could only remembered the first couple of lines. I’ve been trying to find the rhyme online, but have had no success. Finally, I took a chance and wrote it phonetically, in Old Calabrese, into the Google search-box and found it posted by Francesco Pecora on his Facebook page. Francesco lives in Polistena a small town in south eastern Calabria.
Below is his text:
Il detto descrive il modo con cui i nostri antenati annunciavano le feste nel periodo dell’Avvento; Il 30 Novembre, infatti, si festeggia S. Andrea Apostolo, che introduce le festività di: Santa Barbara (4 Dicembre), San Nicola (6 Dicembre), l’Immacolata (8 Dicembre), Santa Lucia (13 Dicembre) e il Santo Natale (25 Dicembre).
By the time we moved from my grandparents’ house to our own, the rhyme remained only in my head. In 1960’s Canada, the only feast-day celebrated before Christmas was the Immaculate Conception. At St. Veronica’s, Sister Drusilla insisted on using only the Advent cycle to mark off the days until December 25. And the rhyme lost its purpose when TV began running the Jingle Bells cartoon counting down the shopping days till Christmas. Who cared about Santa Barbara and Santa Lucia when there were gifts to be had.
The newel posts on the wrought-iron fence, at the end of the street, are decorated with boughs of blue pine tied together with red ribbon. On my way home, I decided to head back down and shoot the boughs and ribbons. The sun was at the horizon, but by the time I got down to the house it had set. It was 4:30. (Yes, I know what’s coming – the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice . . . the darkness.)
Earlier today I was doing some research on the feast-days, listed in the previous post, to see if there was any evidence to support the idea that Andrew the Apostle had created these markers and organized them as precursors to Christmas. Found no information to support this. Instead I found a tradition associated with the feast of Santa Barbara – December 4. In Medieval times, Christians would cut leafless boughs from a cherry tree, bring them indoors and set them in a bucket of water in their kitchens. The belief was that if a bough bloomed then the new year would bring joy. The superstition had ties to the prophecy from the Old Testament from the Book of Isaiah — There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. (Santa Barbara was removed from the liturgical calendar of the Roman Rite in 1969. No real evidence that she existed. It’s a good thing them cardinals are selective with this criteria.)
Because the 8th grade stories are about the Advent period of that long ago at St. Veronica’s Elementary, I am using lyrics from the hymn – O Come, O Come Emmanuel – as titles to connect the 8th grade category and the christmas 2013 one. And the image of a pine bough with its scarlet ribbon is a good fit for the title.
Like all good Catholic school children, we got to draw Christmas themed pictures at this time of year. We got to use colored pencils and large paper. The itinerant Art teacher, who came in once a month, made the December lesson great fun. I remember that Mike Bondar drew a picture of the Christ child in a cradle holding a crucifix. (This is the Bondar family of astronaut Roberta Bondar fame.) Sister Drusilla, ever the sarcastic nun, scoffed at Michael’s rendition. He tried to explain that he was foreshadowing what was to come, but Sister would hear none of it. Considering that Michael was not one of the guys I hung with, I shouldn’t have cared that he was being insulted, instead I thought Sister was being overly harsh. He had a good idea and had executed it well. (Lesson learned – stay inside the lines or Sister will yell at you.)
Sister Drusilla was way too literal and closed minded for the likes of thirteen year old Michael or sixty-five year old Maruzzu.
The hymn O come, O come Emmanuel – Veni, Veni Emmanuel – is a synthesis of the great O Antiphons that are used for Vespers during the octave before Christmas (Dec. 17-23). These antiphons are of ancient origin, dating back to at least the ninth century. The hymn itself, though, is much more recent: it first appeared in an 18th century psalmster. There are several arrangements of the hymn. The most common arrangement uses the last of the O Antiphons as the first verse with the next six following in correct order.
It is interesting to note that the initial words of the antiphons in reverse order form an acrostic: O Emmanuel, O Rex, O Oriens, O Clavis, O Radix, O Adonai, O Sapientia. ERO CRAS can be loosely translated as I will be there tomorrow. And tomorrow is Christmas Eve.
|The Hymn||O Antiphons||Dates|
|O come, Thou Wisdom from on high||O Sapientia||December 17|
|O come, O come Thou Lord of Light||O Adonai||December 18|
|O come, Thou Rod of Jesse’s stem||O Radix Iesse||December 19|
|O come, Thou Key of David, come||Clavis Davidica||December 20|
|O come, Thou Dayspring from on high||O Oriens||December 21|
|O come, Desire of the nations||O Rex Gentium||December 22|
|O come, O come Emmanuel||O Emmanuel||December 23|
I decided to use this post to write about the various Christmas hymns and carols. O Come, O Come Emmanuel was really not a carol that was being widely heard in the 1960’s. (It certainly wasn’t in any muzak collection piped into the stores during the December shopping frenzy.) It was restricted to Sunday Mass. I first heard it, outside of church, at St. Veronica’s during the Advent service led by Sister Drusilla. But it wasn’t until this year that I began to do some research and situated the hymn and the O Antiphons in my Novitiate Breviary in the Advent cycle.
In my mind, I categorize Christmas music: Catholic Christmas music is Latin – Adeste Fideles, In Dulci Jubilo; Italian music is about the child – Gesu Bambino, Tu Scendi dalle Stelle, Mille Cherubini; German and French Christmas music is romantic – Il Est Né, Minuit Chrétiens, O Tannenbaum, Stille Nacht; and American Christmas music is secular – Frosty the Snowman, White Christmas.
Image – Point State Park is all decked out for the holiday. The image is the downtown section of the park looking towards the Northside; the river section is on the other side of the parkway underpass. The entrance to the underpass is on the left of the image.
This posting is going to be a ramble. The monks of The Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge have begun a set of video reflections on the O Antiphons. In two days, I head up to Northern Ontario.
What I remember most of the winters in Sault Ste Marie, before there was central heating and you heated the house with a coal stove, were the windows decorated with ice-crystals. The sunlight through the frosted glass was bright. At St. Veronica’s the classroom windows did not frost over. And many times I’d look over at the stunted willows that bordered the creek next to the school. (I still can picture the insects that seemed to skate on the water.)
Winter light that far north was always grey. And waiting for Christmas vacation was more about not being in school than presents and family. Tobogganing and street hockey were things to look forward to, but Christmas day had lost some of its luster and I remember thinking that once the noon-day meal was over, a malaise would set in. The local network ran commercials of local businesses wishing us all a Merry Christmas. And daylight was done by 4:00. It was in this down atmosphere that Frank would introduced going to the movies on Christmas Day.
Today is shortest day of the year. And with this end begins the new light.
The drive up was miserable, not as bad as last year, but through the snow-belt – the area between Grayling and the Mackinac Bridge – I75 was a one-lane road. (I saw at least 5 vehicles that had slid into the ravines. And I decided that this would be my last car trip to this part of the world during December.)
Before leaving, I had decided to figure out how to get access while I was up here. I had talked to Bell Canada and the person I talked to assured me that I could get a hotspot device to connect to my laptop. My dad would have to sign for it, because I was not a Canadian resident. I called the Soo office to verify that they would have the device, but the woman I talked to had no idea what I was referring and insisted that there was no such device in the store. My next scheme was to see if one of my parents’s neighbors would give me access.
Yesterday evening I walked over to Gerry Pozzebon’s and asked if he would give me access. (The Pozzebons live across the street from my parents. Connie was friends with their daughter, but Gerry was too young to play with us.) Gerry offered, but believed that it would be hard to connect to his router from across the street. He suggested I use my iPhone as a hotspot. I knew nothing about that. His son talked my through it and I went back to see if I could set up the connection. The Verizon represented that the feature had to be activated from a Verizon tower in the US. I told him I was in a border city and could get to the US. He did all the configuration on his side and today I drove to Sault Ste Marie, Michigan to turn my phone on and off and sure enough I had a hotspot connection.
The hotspot worked perfectly well, but the roaming charges are phenomenal, so I turned it off. (I got an email from Verizon telling me that I had incurred a $40 roaming charge.) But for one brief moment there was a time when I could claim that I had Internet access from Ciccio-and-Mafalda’s.
The weather is the topic of all conversations and news commentaries. Southern Ontario is having ice-storms and all travel has been impacted. Here the snow is falling poster-card pretty. (I just keep hoping the by Friday the weather system will have worked its way out of the area and I can go home without dealing with weather warnings.)
Today, Derrick and I went to exercise at the YMCA and like last year they did not charge us. (The Y is one of the best facilities in town.) And while waiting to get our free admission, noticed that in the lobby/café area there is free WY-FI. Tomorrow, I’ll bring my laptop and upload this post.
Eating is still as regimented as a monastic schedule. My dad hollers up, telling me come down to the basement kitchen. Lunch is at noon and dinner at 5:30. You can set your watch on his eating routines.
The other topic of conversation is what I am going to do once I retire. I am amazed by the topic. I’ve never had an interest in anyone else’s retirement plans. Why people are interested in mine is beyond my comprehension.
The image is of St. Theresa School. I was here from 2nd to 7th grade. The classroom on the right was my 6th and 7th grade classroom and our teacher was Mr. Orlando. This is the classroom where on a spelling test I spelled the word does DUZ and Mr. Orlando had me go up to the board and write my spelling of the word. I had no idea was I was wrong, but the experience contributed to my insecurities with spelling. (By the time I got to City High, my kids were trained to know that I did not know how to spell and that it was their responsibility to help me.)
This morning we woke up to 3 to 4 inches of new snow and a temperature of 2 degrees. Ciccio insisted on doing his vegetable shopping first thing this morning, so at 8:00 AM we were one of three cars at the No-Frills grocery store.
And for some reason, the public library came to mind as a place for Internet access and sure enough, here I am at the Centennial Branch on Bay Street, with free access. The branch was built in 1966, Canada’s bi-centennial and I remember coming here after school with a bunch of kids to do pretend homework.
The image is taken from inside the SSM Public Library. This is the building built in 1966 to commemorate Canada’s centennial. I keep being surprised by the condition of this building and the YMCA building. Both were built when I was in high school and both have held up remarkedly well. I say this, because the weather here in the Great White North is very difficult on shoddy construction. I guess these two buildings were well built.
The temperature this morning was at -9. I don’t know how people live here, but sure enough the mall parking lots are filled, the library has patrons and the streets are being cleaned. (The only good thing about this temperature extreme is that the sun is out and the sky is a beautiful blue.)
Tonight begins the eating. I’m going to take my camera and shoot pics at my aunt-and-uncle’s. Have never done that and I don’t know why. I’m also interested in shooting their two kitchens and beginning to add to that category. The Christmas meal will be at my parents. I always wish the events were reversed. My parents do a great rustic meal which is what the Christmas Eve dinner is; and my aunt-and-uncle do a great formal dinner which is what the Christmas Day meal is. At one time that was the routine, but then the Thormans decided to do Christmas morning at their house and Christmas dinner in the Soo. Ciccio-and-Mafalda changed their plans and now they host dinner on the 25th. It’s always been a odd event, because they insist on serving both an Italian set of dishes and the traditional Canadian turkey. (They make a terrible turkey, but can’t say that, because it’s not about the bird. They make the bird so that the grown children can believe that they are not immigrants and that they have assimilated into Canadian society. Another sarcastic comment from the outsider that crazy Americano. Or, they do it because they want the Canadian additions to the family to feel welcomed. Sarcasm is much more entertaining.)
This will be my last post from the Soo. I will be able to post again on Friday from Rose-and-Derrick’s. (The library closes today at noon and doesn’t open again until Friday. Boxing Day is a holiday here in what used to the British Empire’s outpost in North America.)
Christmas Eve dinner is over and before we move upstairs, my uncle makes sure there are 9 dishes left on the table – an old Italian tradition of leaving 9 Christmas Eve dishes on the dinner table so that when the Christ child comes there will be food for all in his retinue.
The meal is always in the downstairs kitchen and dessert is always in the upstairs kitchen. The pic is my aunt and uncle and my dad. My aunt has been going on about not having her pic on the Internet, not that she knows what that means or has ever been near the Internet. (This all started last fall when Connie told her that there was a picture of her online and that it wasn’t a very flattering picture.) So we now tease her about it all the time and I promised to put her pic up online much to her horror. And here it is. My uncle decided to get into the teasing and started making finger gestures at Egilia. (The names in the title are not the people’s formal names, rather the truncated versions used in the family.)
When we came to Sault Ste Marie, there were two families from Aprigliano that my parents were close with, the Belsitos and the Sanguinettis. Cum’amulia e cump’armunte Sanguinetti lived on James Street the old, immigrant neighborhood next to the steel-mill in the west end. And I remember us visiting them in the tall house with the narrow driveway. The Sanguinetti family was Armando, Amalia, Marisa and Joe. I babysat Joe when he was still a child in the crib. I associate the babysitting with reading Burroughs’ Tarzan. It was a thick, hard-cover book. And while Joe slept, I read.
My parents baptized Joe, establishing a formal connection between the Zingas and the Sanguinettis. The thumbnail was taken at Joe’s baptism. Left to right – priest, Mafalda holding Joe, Ciccio holding a candle and Connie. (It’s one of my favorite images of Mafalda.)
In June of 72, I met Marisa and Joe in Aprigliano and we spent a month hanging out. They were visiting their grandparents, and I was visiting za teresina e zu milio. It was a vacation for me while I waited for classes, at the University at Perugia, to start – Junior Year Abroad. The best memory from this time is of Joe and I going cherry-picking. We went to the orchards below Portosalvo, climbed the trees and filled a panier with plump red cherries. We were very proud of our efforts, but when we got back to Joe’s grandparents, cum’amulia split the cherries to make sure they were edible and found tiny white worms in all of them. (Joe and I had eaten our fill while picking. Thank God for those strong stomach acids.)
From the three couples, the Belsitos, the Sanguinettis and the Zingas, only 3 remain – Amalia Sanguinetti, Ciccio and Mafalda Zinga. Cump’armunte died Tuesday evening December 24, 2013 – Christmas Eve.
I always liked cump’armunte. He was the only friend of my parents’ who interacted with me beyond the standard Hello, how are you. He once told me about a run-in he had had with a priest when he was a kid. His disgust played right into my own disgruntled attitude with Mother Church. Other times, we would sit and talk about all that was wrong with Calabria with our beloved Aprigliano. In later years, we would compare notes on the state of modern Italy. He would get out his fact-book on Aprigliano, and I would bring my recent experiences, and we would talk about how them there Apriglianese weren’t making good decisions. If they would just listen to us, after all we had all the answers. I really liked his brash approach, his take-no-prisoners stance.
I did not go visit him those last days in the hospice. I wanted to remember the firebrand, the iconoclast who had been a role-model for a bright kid afraid to let anyone know he was smart. I did not want my last memory of this wonderful man to be that of a cadaver desiccated by cancer. He did not suffer fools gladly and yet he interacted with me.
I am glad to have known him.The titles and italics are in old Apriglianese, our dialect.
I gave Seane the camera and she shot the group. (I insisted that Alissa join the rowdy boys on the sofa.) There were 20 for Christmas dinner.
We all ganged up on my dad and insisted that he cut down on the food. Gone were the fried shrimp, fried clams, fried baccala and all other fish products. I took care of the turkey, stuffing, the mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. My parents added soup, lasagne, broccoli salad, rapini, cold green-beans and salad. Dessert consisted of cantaloupe, honey-dew, and fennel. (My dad brought out the wine he’s aged for over three years and everyone drank it, even his son.)
And the gift exchange was minimal.
Seane, Lilly and I went out walking the neighborhood. We’re on Douglas, the street perpendicular to my parents’. The pavement is hidden below the snow-pack and will probably stay out of site for the next couple of months. The snowfall this year has been heavy and early. Already the snow-banks are over 3 feet and winter just started. Yesterday we got 3 additional inches of fresh show. I shoveled my parents’ 30 foot, double driveway, but my dad didn’t like my work and got the man he contract with for snow removal to re-plow.
Boxing Day in the Soo is still fully observed and no stores were open. Merchants in Toronto defy the law and open. They pay the fine and still make a profit on all the shoppers looking for a discount. (It’s Canada’s Black Friday.) According to Wikipedia – Boxing Day is traditionally the day following Christmas, when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts, known as a “Christmas box”, from their bosses or employers. (Isn’t that generous – the upper classes giving to us low people.) Boxing Day is observed in the United Kingdom, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago and other Commonwealth nations. (Will Canada ever give up its connection to good old England?)
I think if the drive home in 8 pieces – the UP, the Mackinac Bridge, the Isolation, Gaylord, Grayling, West Branch, Saginaw, the Old Road, Frankenmuth and Birch Run, I-475 through Flint, I-69 East and Michigan 24 to Oxford.
1. The UP
Traffic on the International Bridge was heavy and it took me 45 minutes to get through customs. I-75 through the Upper Peninsula is a road in the middle of nowhere. That stretch of the interstate is very pretty and with all the snow a winter wonderland. It’s the beginning of the trip and I tend to be happy about heading home.
2. The Mackinac Bridge
This year, both driving north and on my way home, I rode the outside lanes. These are concrete floorings and less scary than the metal mesh flooring of the inside lanes. However, I have to use tunnel vision and not look to my right. The railing is so low that it looks like you are riding railing-free and the Straights of Mackinac with their swirling waters are just off you right. (Every Christmas as we’re sitting around talking someone brings up a horror story about a car that was blown off the bridge and into the waters below.) The weather had dumped much snow in the area and the middle lanes with their wire mesh flooring seemed slippery and even more scary.
3. The Isolation
After the Mackinac you enter Michigan’s snow-belt. That the area on the other side of the Mackinac and all the way down to Grayling. The snow-belt has two distinct areas. Between touristy Mackinac City and Gaylord is the most isolated and frightening section. The road is never fully cleared; it’s common to have only one lane of the highway plowed. And even as the land around me looks postcard beautiful, the worry of breaking down in this desolate landscape is also on my mind. Gaylord is the middle of the snow-belt and the beginning of the second section. This part of the winter-land is less forbidding, because you begin to see signs of civilization – gas-stations, rest-stops, fast-food advertisements.
4. Gaylord, Grayling, West Branch and Saginaw
Even though these small towns are in the snow-belt, they are also the beginning of civilization. In Gaylord, along I-75 there are large stands of pine trees with all their lower branches cut. Grayling is insignificant except to note that it is the southern border of the snow-belt. And West Branch is the half-way point of the trip south to Rose-and-Derrick’s. The highway bridge at Saginaw is the official entrance into southern Michigan.
5. The Old Road
Much of I-75 has been repaved, except for the area south and West Branch and almost to Frankenmuth. The lanes are full of ruts and it’s a bumpy ride.
6. Frankenmuth and Birch Run
The area is a shoppers paradise. And I hate it. The only carrot is that the highway becomes 3 lanes.
7. I-475, Flint and I-69
I really hate this part of the trip. It’s side roads to avoid taking I-75 down to Oxford. They are supposed to be shortcuts, but they go through some ugly areas. The i-475 spur through Flint is surrounded by the old city of Flint. The I-69 portion is through sprawling suburbia. This time the ice-storm had covered all the trees and at least that was pretty.
8. Michigan 24 South
This is the last road before Rose-and-Derrick’s. And for three quarters of the way was lined with ice covered trees and bushes. Beautiful.
The impetus for this entry is the magical word twelfth. I can’t spell it, because I have no understanding of how you combine a t, a w, an e, an l, an f, another t and an h into a word. What were them Middle Englishers thinking? And yet I love the contortions the tongue has to perform in order to make the sound. It comes out like an incantation.
Not to be outdone by them 14th century peoples, I’ve assembled my own contradictions from highfalutin Shakespeare (the post title), and Giotto (the image), to the low-brow Twelve Days of Christmas (the entry title). While using the Catholic feast of the Epiphany to tie them all together.
The pic is Giotto’s Adoration of the Magi. (Giotto’s frescoes remind me of American primitive paintings.) With camels and gifts the three kings have followed the comet – the brown ball at the top of the image – to the stable at Bethlehem. In the fresco, this stable seem to be the end of the road. The oldest king has taken off his crown and kneels before the child. All present watch except for the camel driver who prefers to attend to his animals. (He’s my favorite character in this Medieval pageant.)
The 2013 Christmas season is done. And good riddance. I am so glad to be nowhere near northern Michigan; to not hear anymore carols, holiday greetings, birthday wishes or questions about retirement.
Yesterday, I went over to Rick-and-Sarah’s and we booked our flights to Italy for August.