Thursday, April 20, 2017

American Size Me

Today I was in my local post office (Post) to pay my electric bill.  Included in this bill is the national television charge of approximately 20 euros.  This is how the country squeezes the turnip and makes sure they get all the money intended.  It is all above the table.  One good thing I noticed was a sign stating that now free wifi is being provided while you wait in line.  This is a good thing!  Lines are long here, often stretching outside in the cold.  Bills are being paid, money withdrawn and packages mailed.  Nothing is quick here.

home made
It's market day in my village, always Thursdays.  Strolling through I found three vegetable sellers, two fish, one cheese, one roasted chicken, one shoe salesman, one florist, and assorted junky stuff made in China.  I bought two bottles of hot sauce spreads from the Sicilian guy, he is my source to stay spiced up a bit.  We are expecting visitors and maybe they will share my desire for a bit of heat.  I didn't expect  to see so few people on such a sunny day.   Sadly, absent for many months now is my accordion guy from Romania.  I miss his squeaky squeezebox sounds floating over the market.  Even though he knew few old Italian songs, I liked the Romanian ones.

                                           In my coffee bar

Lo and behold, I suddenly hear a British voice saying, "Well, I will call you tomorrow."  My head jerks quickly over and I spy a grey haired, jolly looking fellow putting his cell down.  This is a moment not to be missed and so I yell over to him, "Are you British?"  And we are off to the races.....Jim lives here in my village and writes a Friday column for a newspaper in Great Britain.  He is going to become a good friend....It is a good day!  I wonder if he likes Mexican food?  All this time I thought I was only one of two English speaking people in my village.
Mexican Plate

While Jim and I are talking, two old guys, my age, are sitting watching our conversation.  With a startled look like the discovered grandma is now roadkill, they seemed stunned.  I have talked to them before, but only in my slow Italian.  I am sure that they have thought I must be mentally challenged.  I have now been confirmed normal.  BTW, I am not normal!

When I first arrived at my coffee bar I had intended to sit outside in the sun.  The tables outsides had been rearranged and I had to look hard to find a place where I could actually even get a chair pulled back so I could sit down.  There was only one spot, and if I sat there no person could sit behind me as their chair would be straight up against their table.  This is a moment where I think, "Italians!"  Squeezing in is a good thing in their minds.   They like squeezing.  Crowded situations?........ no problem!    Touching..., up close and personal situations so tight you are  always worried about other hands sneaking to grab your  wallet while you stare at the hairy mole on someones neck.   You don't look into the faces of people, the rule is to stare off in oblivion.   (I cheat)   You get to know the locals really well in these situations.

 Italian furniture.    Bar owners in Italy always go cheap purchasing plastic chairs, or chrome designed chairs  so tight and uncomfortable that you know they want you to drink and "move on".   In approaching  a piazza we are always searching to find a bar with the best chairs.    Cheap bastardi!   Your vocabulary word of the day.
Italians  don't mind sitting in living room chairs where your butt is actually below your knees.  (Try to crawl out of that when you are old!) They don't mind little seats, and watch out in their movie theatres.  The seats are the width that would only fit a strutting fashion model.  The rest of us have to slide into a seating position shaking booty as if we are practicing the Macarena.  Getting out is worse!  I have often thought that Italians are related to the Japanese somehow.  Their beds are only raised a short distance from the floor, a real struggle for an old person to get out of bed and up into a standing position.

That's a short glimpse into village life for this week.
Ciao, Dave

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

John Kennedy, Nikita Krushchev and the Lucky Hand

Yesterday when I was in Padova I went to my usual bar where they have wifi and when I walked in I noticed that the owner had put up black and white photos of past historical events.  Almost in the center was a photo of John Kennedy shaking the hand of Nikita Krushchev, and I had to tell the owner that my hand had also shook the hand of John Kennedy.  I got a double take on that one and he asked me to explain, which I did in my elemental Italian.  

When I was 9 years old John Kennedy was making a tour of the United States before declaring his candidacy for President.  This was in 1958 and in June he  made a stop at the airport of Colorado Springs where my family lived.  My father knew of the Kennedy family because he had been stationed in New England after WWII, and he told me that we had to go to the airport and see Kennedy.  

We watched the plane land and taxi up to the terminal.  They used a moveable staircase such is now used for budget flights here in Europe, and  soon the door opened and men in suits deplaned.  John Kennedy stepped out of the plane and waved to the small crowd.  I remember that it  was less than a hundred people, more like 50.  My father told me to go up and get a closer look, so I pushed myself through the reporters and photographers and was soon face to face with Kennedy.  He was talking to everyone, and I just stood there watching but not having a political clue as to just what I was viewing.  BTW I was the only kid there, completely surrounded by adults.

Kennedy looked down at me and said, “Who are you?”  I told him my name, and told him that my father had brought me to meet him.  He was looking over the crowd, probably wondering what bigshot had brought his kid.  I extended my hand and said I was glad to meet him and he shook my hand.  He  said, “Who is your father?”  I pointed through the crowd at my father standing in the back. Kennedy said,” What does he do?”  I proudly told him that my father was a plumber.  A smile grew on Kennedy’s face and he shook my hand a second time.  I remember he said something like, “I am glad you came out.”  I was then pushed by the crowd as they moved away from the plane and I went back to tell my father what happened.  

That was my big moment in history.  Well, not the only one, thank goodness.  But it was one that I think of often and when I saw that photo of Kruschev and Kennedy I remember how Kennedy managed to remove the nuclear missiles that the Soviet Union had sent to Cuba.  Of course I remember how my entire high school was informed over the intercom of the assassination of Kennedy.

During my youth, there were times that I acted and thought like most teenagers, thinking my parents needed a ‘second education’, etc.  Later  I realized how wrong I was, how my father the plumber was so aware of history.  I was the only kid who got to shake Kennedy’s hand that day.    Bravo, Dad!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

What's New In Northern Italy

Spring Brings More Business For Gondoliers
Spring is here in Italy!  We know this by two things, one is when we see leaves sprouting on the grape vines, and the other is when we see cotton floating in the air from the cottonwood trees.  Grapes are usually one of the last plants to show action, so when they show leaves we know the weather will change for the best.  The cotton makes allergies go nuts!

March was fairly dry, compared to other years, and April seems to be also the same.  We have temperatures reaching 70, causing Italians to shed those overused scarves and black jackets.  Standing in my coffee bar are four gentlemen, two with shirts and two with jackets.  It’s a mixed bag this morning caused by the overcast skies.

I made a visit to my family doctor this morning in order to get his signature that I am alive and well.  My teacher’s pension system needed assurance that  my descendants were not mooching off the system after my demise.  The office had only 3 people waiting to see him and it went quite quickly.  Only one person was coughing, the others had paperwork.  My doctor goes it alone, he has no secretary, no aides, no nurses, no people sorting paperwork.  This is the way in Italy for doctors.  He keeps a copy of my tests, but I carry my own copy and my X-rays.  It is my responsibility to not lose them.  By the way, in case you are an unbelieving American, my visit had no fee.  Doctor visits are covered by the health system in Italy.  Go in the hospital, it is the same, covered.  All people, poor or rich get a chance to stay healthy without going bankrupt over medical bills.

Monday the weather was  so good that I made my first outing to paint watercolors.  It was a bit of a shock to find that the waterwheel I intended to paint for several years, was now a construction zone for a new pedestrian bridge.  I had walked a distance with all my equipment so I made a go of it anyway.  Here is the finished product.   It is just a sketch I will use later for a larger painting.

I have also completed an acrylic painting of this old boat.  The size is about 4 feet by 3.

Quiet Sunset 

Greek Salad and Tzatziki
How to make Greek Yogurt Tzatziki below 
I have plans to fly to Chania, on Crete Island where I will  soon enjoy a week of painting.   Chania (pronounced Hawneeyah) is a quaint town with the center featuring Venetian architecture created when the Venetians ruled there.  They have a nice harbor with a small light house, and another boat harbor nearby.  We have enjoyed Chania several times, gotten to know some great people, and visited many of the beaches of Crete.  It’s not just the scenery, though, I really enjoy Greek cuisine.  Fotos next month!

home made rolled noodles and great sauce with meat
Croatian Specialty
Totally Awesome Calamari
Croatia is also on our travel list.  We will stay in a bungalow on the shore of the sea.  I will take my painting equipment.  Last year while painting a terrific thunder storm rolled in and the whole night the rain poured down in buckets.  I will pass on that this year!  Their food is also super.  Here is a foto from last year of the storm arriving. 
Storm Coming
The land looks like it is floating

I wish you a happy Spring, ciao.