Tales of a wandering lesbian


It’s noon here and already I’ve had a great day.

I got back from Lucca last night to do a bit of house sitting for Deb and Sandra while they’re on vacay.  Their son, Tom and I chatted a bit, planned for tonight’s meal, and went to sleep. I’m amazed at how quickly I’ve come to think of my little mattress as home.  I had a fantastic visit to Lucca, but I felt a sense of quiet as I climbed into bed last night.  The sounds and smells are familiar now, and I know where I am when I wake up in the night.

This morning when I woke, I started the laundry, fed the dogs, warmed a brioche and made my best cappu yet.  I even managed to get out of the house with keys in hand (if you forget the keys, you’re sol, as many Italian houses don’t seem to have doorknobs, requiring the use of a key to enter.  One morning spent in the cold in my pj’s taught me that lesson.)

Looking around at the scenery, I saw what I had been unable to take-in the night before.  While I was away, the mountains had been coated with a brilliant snow.  Beautiful.

Fornacci mountain view

On my way down the stairs, I heard Berti calling my name (or something like it).  “Giorno!”  We then carried on a 10 minute conversation in Italian during which we understood each other probably 60% of the time, planning who would be looking after Tommy today, whether the dogs had eaten, and the status of the tubo.  Wow!  Apparently,my time in Lucca did quite a lot for my vocabulary and confidence.

Then I headed out the gate to the Micra.  My first test of Italian driving.

Micra Mia!

It’s me, no?

So, I popped in my new Noemi CD (as far as I can tell she’s the Italian equivalent to Adele), put on my driving glasses and headed up the hill.

First, I want to say that the Italian conception of what “good driving” is is a little different than what you might experience in the US.  While in the US, stopping distance is important and almost everyone will talk on their cell while driving, in Italy, a 6 inch to 6 foot stopping distance is considered adequate, while the idea of talking on the phone without a hands-free device is considered completely unsafe.  As I backed out of the driveway, I wondered if I’d make it up the hill without pissing off half the residents of Barga and how I’d handle parking once I got there.

As I pulled away from the first stop sign, the little Micra peeled a little rubber – surprising, given how much Deb makes fun of the little car’s lack of pick-up.  Frankly, I felt like I was in a race car.  I see now why Deb uses the parking break instead of the foot pedal.  I’ll have to practice more to get that down.  Winding my way up the hill, I felt completely at home, even becoming irritated by the slow van in front of me (I say slow, but I really don’t know how fast I was going.  Like the Euro, the Km is so foreign to me that it all seems like pretend denominations).  I did not, however, pass the van, risking a three-across situation on the road as I’ve experienced a number of times riding with Deb.  Evidently, this is common, but I’m not used to it yet.

When I got to Barga, I found the little street where we park every morning.  Unfortunately, a larger car had totally screwed-the-pooch (That’s a terrible phrase, isn’t it?  Which is worse do you think:  screwed-the-pooch or shit-the-bed?  I like shit-the-bed, honestly.  Either way, that’s what this guy did) for all of us by parking over the line.  After about 10 mins of psyching myself up, I put my big-girl panties on and made an attempt at the already too-small space while a nice man sitting on a bench across the street directed me from afar using hand signals.  It’s so fun to have an audience for things like this.

In the end, I actually made the car fit without scraping, rubbing or bumping anything.  I’m not sure how I got out or how anyone else will get in, but I’m sure we’ll work it out.

Micra Park

After figuring out which key opened the studio, and turning on the lights (bonus) I sat down to write and bask in the glory of my morning.  Then I walked to one of my favorite places for pastry:  Caffe Lucchesi.  It’s a great place (I think) where they make pastry and chocolate daily (I’m basing that on the smells that come from the inside when you open the heavy doors, and the overhead flat-screen tv that shows someone working away on a vast stainless steel surface somewhere out of sight.)  The only problem with Lucches is that they are so eager to help me that I have to force us all to speak in Italian, me pointing and them patiently talking me through the pastries.

This morning it was cappu and a pasta con pera (pear pastry).

Cappu and Pera

The pastry is light and lovely and the pear seriously melted away when I bit into it.  Amazing.  For 1 Euro 90 I have a practically-perfect second breakfast that would easily cost twice that in a busy coffee shop in the US.  And a view of the mountains.

The Italian word for “happy” is “contento/a”.  I like it very much.  It doesn’t have the connotation of manic expectation that “happy” has for me.  Just easy contentment.  Sitting there at an outside table with my coffee, pastry and Harry Potter book, I let myself be still,  awash in the feeling that has crept in over the last week.  There is nowhere in the world I would rather be than right here right now.

One of the hazards of being someone who looks toward to future, toward an ideal construction of whatever it is I would like to see in the world, is that I often lose sight of the beauty of what is around me and within me at any given moment.  I’m working out the next move, the next manipulation in order to bring about that which I would like to see in the world.  One of the great gifts I am receiving is the ability to experience right here, right now and to let go of my expectations; to let things evolve and unfold naturally.

That leaves me time to think about just how long I can live on my savings.

Sono contenta.

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1 Frank { 11.12.09 at 8:03 am }

“In Italy… the idea of talking on the phone without a hands-free device is considered completely unsafe.”

If only this were true! Italians have the world’s highest ratio of cellphones to population, and they are glued to them 24/24. I can’t keep count of the number of times some gabby buffone has nearly obliterated pedestrian me while making a 40mph right-hand turn in the midst of a telephone conversation.

By the way, the singular for a pastry is “pasta.” Or did you eat several (paste)? Can’t blame you, they’re deliciose.

It must gall you to have your Italian corrected by an Americano and a Giapponese…

2 KFlick { 11.12.09 at 9:34 am }

Nah. After working as an appellate law clerk for a few years, the idea of my work going out without 40 pairs of eyes editing can be paralyzing. So, the copy edits are appreciated. It’s the fact-checking that really chaps my hide. 🙂

I hesitate every time I make a generalization like that one, but I’ll tell you that everyone I’ve ridden with has been virulently opposed to the idea of answering the phone while driving – unless handsfree. Of course they’re not so concerned with seat belts, car seats, or seat-belting car seats, but that’s another thing altogether…

3 Frank { 11.12.09 at 10:02 am }

You shouldn’t project Italian driving behavior from that of your own friends — a population slice that almost certainly reflects your own attitudes, which is quite normal. What’s not especially normal, unfortunately (and I’d bet those friends will agree) is an Italian driver, male or female, who can resist the appeal of the almighty telefonino. You’ll agree too, if you stand on a busy street corner for an hour or so and conduct an informal survey. But stand well away from the curb!

4 KFlick { 11.12.09 at 4:47 pm }

Ahahahah! Good tip.