Tales of a wandering lesbian


My return to Italy was a friendly one.  It felt like going home in a way.  To familiar airports and train stations.  To familiar smells and sounds and colors.

My return to Barga was something more essential.  It was like returning my soul to the place I first recognized it.  And to a place that had challenged me to the core of my being.  It comforted me.

And frightened me.

What would it be like to return?  Would it feel the same?  Would I be remembered?  Welcomed?  Judged?  Would my language be good enough?  Would I appear confident?  Over-confident?  Would I see her?

(The answers are: great, yes, yes, yes, maybe, yes, yes, maybe, yes.)

I tried not to think too much about it during the three weeks that came before.  Thinking about it wouldn’t change it, either way.  I’d see as much of the hodgepodge that I’d come to regard as my Italian family as possible in the two days I’d be there.

Then I got an email.  We had a place to stay.  A beautiful place.  An apartment above the home of some of my family.  And we had a ride from the train station.

Suddenly our two days became four.  The thought of spending a couple of nights in another city were lost.  The call of this home was strong.

I rode the train with my camera in-hand.  I knew the change that would take place.  How the lush fields would give way to rocky riverbeds.  I missed these rivers.  I hadn’t realized it, but now, riding over them, I felt their pull.

We changed trains in Lucca, another city where I’d been welcomed into the home of friends.

This place spoke to me, too.

I felt emotions rising as we climbed aboard the dirty, regional train, and I warned the Ant.

“I’m going to try to be cool, but I really don’t know what’s going to come up for me, emotionally.”  After all, this was the place my life had changed.  This was the place where my world had shifted dramatically, sending me into a tailspin that would bring me back a few months later to live with strangers after selling my house and quitting my job.

“You don’t have to explain.”  She looked equally shaken.  She’d been there when it happened.

We rolled along, and I considered my legs.  It’s always my legs that bring me to the present.  Snap me to the here and now.

And here I was again.  Riding the train from Lucca to Fornaci di Barga.  The names of familiar train stops flashed by.   In no time at all, we were there, hugging and kissing and thanking Ryo for picking us up.

“I don’t like Kristin!”  The first test came as I climbed in the front seat of the car.  Two-year-old Andre was crying.  “Da-ddy!”

“Yes, Andre, I’m here.”  Ryo was trying to comfort his son from the front seat.  The Ant, sitting next to the boy looked terribly unsure.  I just laughed.  It was like I’d never left.  “Andre, what is it?”

“I DON’T LIKE KRISTIN.”  Ah yes.  If you’d ever like to have your soul crushed a little, have a child scream to the heavens that he doesn’t like you.  Over and over, for 20 minutes.  In a confined space.

I just kept laughing.

Now, it turned out that Andre had been in a fit of “I don’t like” all day.  But I didn’t know that.  And it didn’t really take the sting away once I found out.  Still, it did afford me the remarkable exercise of laughing while someone declared their dislike for me.  Their honest, heartfelt, loud dislike.  Dislike that, over the course of the next 4 days would disappear completely, lost in penguin bowling and soccer.

We stopped by the house in Fornaci where I’d spent two months in the gracious care of my friends, for a quick hello and a cup of tea.  The dogs recognized me, and seemed happy enough to see me, and Berti and I greeted with hugs, kisses, and more Italian than I’d spoken the entire time I’d been there before.  Deb made me a cup of tea, and Tommy threatened me with his paint-sodden hands.

Then we were off, up the hill to Barga, where we’d be staying in the same house as Ryo and Andre, and the rest of their family.

We settled into the beautiful apartment quickly, each of us choosing a room with a big bed and too many pillows.  I sent an email to my friend Frank to let him know we were there and tell him where we’d be for dinner, in the off chance he checked his email and wanted to join us.  We’d already planned to meet the next day for lunch, but I was hoping for a little extra Frank-time.

Hungry from the day’s travels and emotions, the Ant and I decided to head into town.  We’d probably grab a pizza at the place we’d eaten the first day we spent in Barga, over a year ago.

Not to be outdone by Venice, Barga was acting like a diva throwing all kinds of dramatic clouds around the sky.

Up we climbed, into the old heart of Barga, past the studio I knew intimately, and the shop that had drawn me in with its pretty stools.  As we reached the top, huffing and puffing, I looked up from the stone street.  And I smiled.

Frank stood there.  In the middle of a group of people, chatting away.  We all smiled and called out to each other.

“Did you get my email?”

“No.  Did you just get in?”  Perfect.  This was a chance meeting.  Barga is a small place, but I was happy to celebrate meeting Frank here tonight.

He joined us for dinner.  One of many meals we would share over the next few days.  Only our morning coffee and pastry were reserved for the two of us.  Nearly every other meal was in the company of others.

Pizza with the whole family,

curry and rugby at the house,

pasta and opera with Frank.

It was a whirlwind of food and love and discussion and humility.  And every second in between was filled with middle-of-the-street conversation with new friends,

visits to ancient cloisters,

and familiar views.

We even squeezed in games of Pictionary, tossing my little Italian dictionary back and forth.  Playing in two languages.  And when the game was put away, the dishes done, and our last goodbyes said, the final night continued.

The one family member I hadn’t seen enough of during my last trip remained.

“We could play games,” I suggested.

“I’d like that,” she said in her perfect English.

The Ant tucked behind her bedroom door, we closed ourselves into the drawing room.  For four hours we shuffled and dealt and talked.  About life and love, and language.  About “r” and “rr” and “d” and “tt.”   We argued about where your tongue hits your teeth when you say “do.”  And I amazed her with my perfect pronunciation of “boh.”

“You are Italian!” she exclaimed.

I muttered something in her language.

“No, you are a stranger.”  A stranger.  It was more crushing than a two year old screaming his dislike.

I wasn’t a stranger.  Just a newcomer.  After all, I recognized people on the street.  And they recognized me.

When we finally called it quits, I walked her to her car, relishing the summer air and the flickering lightning bugs.

“A dopo,” I promised to me as much as to her.  It wasn’t forever, just until later.

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July 9, 2010   8 Comments

Fornaci on ice

Yesterday was another good day.  After a couple of hard days, I was able to settle back into my surroundings and really enjoy where I am.

The morning was filled with the usual routine:  coffee, breakfast, a trip to the fashion outlet, work in the studio.  You know, the usual.  Lunch was a makeshift affair, during which I made one of the tastiest sandwiches ever from some wonderful bread, eggs, cheese and zuccnini.

Best sandwich ever

While at the house of Luigi and Andre, I learned about a tradition where the kids leave their Christmas lists out in their boots for Santa’s elves to pick up.

Elf Boots

Evidently a candle is left out for the elves to blow out.  That’s how you know they’ve been there.  That and the trail of glitter they leave.  It seems like a rather messy tradition to me, but I was assured that it’s really quite wonderful.

After lunch, I hiked up to the duomo.  I hadn’t been up there for a while, and it was a beautifully blustery winter day.  The views from the duomo are fantastic.  The town of Barga stretches out beneath it and the alps reach up from the horizon.

Pane from duomo

I walked in front of the duomo to snap a picture, and saw its doors standing open.  I realized I hadn’t been inside yet!  Insanity.  So I pulled off my little knit hat and ducked inside.  The duomo is beautiful.  It’s dark, but beautiful.  I took a moment to let my eyes adjust and then walked around a bit.  A lone photographer was crouched in front of the famous pulpit, trying to capture the light on the marble lions.  I didn’t even try.  My little camera is no match for dark spaces.

I walked up to one of the side chapels to light a candle for my families – American and Italian.   These were the electric variety, so I plunked in my coin, picked one out and plugged it in.  And I chuckled.

Electric duomo candles

Then I turned back to the cathedral door.  I’d forgotten how beautiful the view is from inside the duomo itself.  I can understand why people travel here for special ceremonies.

Pane from inside duomo

I took a couple of minutes to absorb the beauty of the mountains, then headed down the hill back into the town itself.  This weekend is a long weekend, due to the feast of the immaculate conception.  Yes, Italy shuts down for a couple of days to celebrate the immaculate conception.  In Barga the weekend also happens to be a celebration of chocolate.  “Barga Ciocolata” is in town.  Many of the storefronts that usually sit empty are filled with chocolate vendors.  There are tents with chocolatiers hocking their goods, and little ciocolata calda stands everywhere.

Barga ciocolata

The town is alive with chocolate-crazed tourists and locals hopped up on sugar and cocoa, and possibly thoughts of virgin mothers – hard to say.  The chocolate really seemed primary.  After making a circuit of the chocolate route, I picked out a little ciocolata calda stand that looked like it was a non-profit fundraiser, and bought 4 cups to take back to the studio.  Once I got back there, I looked up the words from the sign on the little table.  I was glad to find out it was the anti-leukemia society.   I hadn’t been sure exactly what I was supporting, but the ladies selling the chocolate were nice – and smoking.

The chocolate was divine.

Ciocolata Calda

The ladies had some kind of electric chocolate pot that warmed up the mixture.  They just pushed a button and sat back.  I need one of these magic pots, I think.  I walked around the bustling town, enjoying the excitement of a destination location.  The hilltop town of Barga in the midst of one of its festivals reminds me a bit of the sleepy Idaho town I grew up in.  One day it’s dead-quiet and the next inundated with an influx of visitors.  It might feel like an invasion to some, but the ebb and flow of this kind of place is a comfort to me.  New people bring new dollars, but they also bring smiles.  In a small town, where everyone knows everyone else’s business, it can seem easier to smile at strangers.

We drank our chocolate, packed up, and headed down the hill.  On the way down, we were treated to a spectacular light show that also reminded me of Idaho.

Barga/Fornaci sunset

The sunset was soft and pink and dramatic on the newly snow-covered mountains.

The day belonged to Barga, but the night to Fornaci.  I had a date.  The main square of Fornaci had been flooded to make an ice skating rink, and I’d promised Tommy I’d go with him.  This was the night.  But it was cold.  So, I reached into the closet, pulled out several layers of Icebreaker and got myself ready for some serious fun.

One of the bonuses of growing up in a world-famous ski resort is the excellent winter sports opportunities it presents.  Sun Valley is known for its ski hills, but it also has a pair of Olympic-sized ice rinks.  The Sun Valley Ice Shows are legendary.  My sister and I even spent one season testing whether we were cut-out for competitive skating.  It turns out we were not – but we did get to skate with folks like Scott Hamilton in one of the shows.  What that means is that, while I’m not a good skater, I’m not terrible, either.  And I like to go fast.  The best day I had on the ice ever was the day I rented a pair of speed skates and spent a couple of hours being told to slow down.

(Sidenote:  I’ve seriously considered joining the Rose City Roller Derby.  Like in rugby, I’m not big, but I’m fast, so I think I could make it work.  I’ve already picked out my moniker:  Maxi Pad.  I figure I’ll put padding all over my outfit just in case.  Let me know what you think.)

So Tom and I rented our skates (which were blue plastic hockey-type skates, and soaking wet inside) and headed out onto the bumpy rink.  The rinks I’m used to are pretty big, and smooth.  The rinks at Sun Valley kick people off every hour or so to clean the ice with a Zamboni.  This ice on the little piazza in Fornaci is a week old, and has endured several days of rain.  Tom assured me that it was smooth the first day.  Regardless, it was great – just a little extra challenging.

Piazza ice

The scene put me back 20 years (I can’t believe I can remember 20 years ago) to an outdoor rink where the boys in the skating club were playing “chicken” and jokingly challenged the girls, thinking nobody would bite.  I can remember the look on Clay Josephie’s face as I looked up at him from the ground after running headlong into him.  Shock and amusement.  It’s a shame the women’s hockey league didn’t start up until after I left Idaho.

Anyway, we did a lap together, and then Tommy found some of his friends who were watching.  He seemed content chatting and skating little bits at a time.  I, on the other hand, took a couple of warm-up laps, remembering how to push off out of the cross-over , and turned up the speed.  And then I fell.  It was a great, flailing, turning, choppy, nearly-recovered fall.  Hockey skates are very different from figure-skates.  They’re really maneuverable, but they don’t have the comb on the front of the blade that you can use to stop yourself.  If you try, you will fall.  Consider that a public service announcement.

There were so many people crammed onto the little rink that I couldn’t go very fast, so the fall was more humorous than anything.  I ended up skating into and picking up people more times than I fell, and only one boy pushed me (clearly jealous of my super-cool cross-over).  I even controlled myself when a girl who looked about 12 darted out in front of me, raced into the corner, crossed-over, and looked back at me.  I wanted to take a few running steps and spray her with ice.  But I didn’t.  I’m much more mature than that – I’m like 14.

After an hour, I was tired.  I’d been skating hard.  Tom, however, was ready for more.  “10 minuti, Tom, okay?”  “Si!  Or 20 or 40…”  Fortunately, the rink closed in 20 minutes, so our fun was coming to a close.  My feet were not so happy with me, and my right hip-flexor was ready for a break.  I kept thinking “okay, 2 more laps and it’s time to go”.  Eventually, I wrangled Tommy, and we headed home for taco night.

That’s right, folks, taco night!  I’d picked up tortillas, chips, salsa and refried beans.  These were all specialty items and there wasn’t much selection.  The chips came in a tiny little bag, and the beans looked like they’d been on the shelf for years.  While the others had chicken tacos, I served up veggie tacos with cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, peppers and leeks.  Super-yummy!

Veggie taco

These were a staple when Leigh and I would cook.  If you haven’t tried making tacos with veggies, try it.  Just start with the slowest cooking veggies first and basically stir fry them with taco seasoning.

We all had fun assembling our tacos and sharing our different techniques:  mozzarella cheese substituted for cheddar and refried beans made their debut in the household.

Bruised and contentedly-full, we all climbed into pajamas to watch a movie with Luigi, who was spending the night.  All said, it was a pretty perfect day, what with the chocolate and skating and tacos and pajamas and all.

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December 8, 2009   Comments Off on Fornaci on ice

The end of the sidewalk

“Have you ever walked down to Fornaci from Barga?”  My request for a new adventure would be answered by the unexpected question from Ryo.  “It’s an ancient path just past the hospital.”

Ryo told me that he had tried to bike the path once, but found a large tree blocking the entrance, and had turned back.

I’ve been struggling a little in the last few days, my poor language skills leaving me with a deep feeling of inadequacy.  A walk in the woods was exactly what I needed.  Growing up, I had taken many hikes in the mountains with my family and with my good friend (and chemistry teacher) Mrs. Healy.  Being able to find paths and make my way through the hills always made me feel confident.  There’s nothing like seeing a distant ridge and knowing that you’ve just made your way from there to here with nothing but your legs and eyes.

And so I started the 90 minute trek from the top of the hill.  “Ryo, where’s the hospital?  And the path?”

“Oh just go out and up and then there’s a sign for the Ospedale.  Then you go on the road, and it forks.  Then, I think you bear right.  I think.  And you wind through some houses.”  He was making swervy motions with his hands, like a fish swimming upriver.  He looked up at me and chuckled.  “And then the road ends and you start going down.”  Deb looked uncertain that I would ever find my way down the hill, and I wasn’t feeling super-confident.  But really, if I went the wrong way, I’d just climb back up and find the studio.  Right?

“I’m off.  If I can’t find it, I’ll be back for a ride.”  “Okay, don’t get lost!”  An unsure smile, and I was off.

Finding the hospital was easy, if a bit unsafe.  The narrow, winding roads that define many of the hill towns present a challenge to those walking on them.  Walking on the right is not, generally, a safe thing to do, as the cars can’t see you well.  However, the many blind corners and fast drivers meant that I was crossing the road frequently to put myself on the outside of the curve, or in the cutout formed by a garden gate.

Curve Another curve And another curve

Once past the hospital, the countryside opened up, giving excellent views and picturesque farmhouses.



When I finally hit a fork in the road, I had been walking for about 30 minutes.  I was really wondering if I was on the right path.  But, I had the mountains to guide me, and I could see the great butte that shades Fornaci, standing sentinel on the other side of the valley.

As I walked I saw very few cars, and heard them in enough time to get out of the way.  There were more animals than people along the way.  Dogs barked from distant houses and cats darted across the ever-narrowing road.

After another 15 minutes of walking in silence, I was seriously wondering if the road would ever end, and where it would dump me out if it didn’t.  I was considering loading google earth on the laptop in my bag, and seeing where exactly I was, when the road came to an end.


To the left was a partially-paved lane marked with several signs.  One announced that it was a private drive.  To the right was an unpaved lane that seemed to lead through a gate and into someone’s yard.  The middle path was overgrown.  Leaves and chestnut pods covered it.  And it seemed to wind around the cluster of houses at the end of the private drive.  But it led down – down the valley wall that I had now reached.  And so I looked around, thought about all the friendly people that lived in the houses, and started down.

Ancient path

The ground was positively littered with chestnuts.  Their leaves made the path slippery, but the hairy pods provided a little traction.  The nuts themselves were everywhere, shiny, growing, friendly.

Chestnut pods Chestnut growing Chestnut path

The path led down and the chestnut trees gave way to elm.  I spent most of the time watching my footing, making sure I didn’t slide down to Fornaci.  Every so often, however, something would catch my eye, bringing my focus to the here and now.  It was like little friends waving as I made my way past.

Mushroom Berry

And, after many twists and turns, the path turned uphill, and suddenly I was out of the woods, walking through someone’s yard.  The light was beautiful, filtering dramatically through the clouds.  Everything was beautiful.  Doors, walls, trees.  Everything.




I still wondered if I was on the right path – whether I would emerge in Fornaci, and whether I could find the house, even if I did.  But I wasn’t worried.  There were friends all along the way.  Goats smiled, and gnomes began to appear, pointing the way.

Goats Gnome! Gnomes!

When I emerged from the country lane, I wasn’t sure where I was, precisely, but I knew I was close.  The mountains were in the right place, and the power lines that I use to guide myself to the house were overhead.  I was in Fornaci.  As I entered the main street, I looked back to see where I had come out, thinking that maybe sometime I might try the reverse trek up the hill.  When I snapped a picture to make sure I could find the place, I laughed.


It reminded me of a poem I’d memorized in 6th grade.  It was the Shel Silverstein poem, “Where the Sidewalk Ends.”  I haven’t thought of it in ages, but it seemed appropriate running through my head as I stepped off of the “ancient path” and onto the streets of an Italian town.  Grateful for my adventure I looked around, all feelings of inadequacy gone.  I remembered that I could speak the language of the mountains and the trees.  And there was beauty everywhere.

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November 24, 2009   6 Comments


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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November 11, 2009   4 Comments

Donne Potente

I’m posting a little later than usual today. Last night was a busy night. Sandra’s mom lives downstairs, in the apartment off the garden. When I first arrived, she was getting ready to move in with her son for a while, because of some serious work that needed to be done on one of the walls. And old, unused pipe was leaking. While that might sound like an easy job, it’s not.

In the US, I would have just bopped down and capped the pipe. Here, it’s taken a team of 3 or 4 guys over a week to do about half the job – banging and drilling every morning. The walls are made to last. They’re built of stone and brick and mortar and stuff. Many of the houses in the town are older than the United States as a country.  So, Sandra’s mom moved out for a bit while the work is being done.

Every day I try to take a little time to study one of the text books that Sandra has loaned me to use. I look at the pictures and try to pronounce the vocab words. Yesterday morning over breakfast, I was studying. “Tubo” stood next to a drawing of a pipe – the elbow of a pipe, to be precise. I thought this was funny given the work that wakes up the household at 8 am every day.

I had a great day at the studio, cleaning for 8 hours or so. It was good, but nothing really to write about, and I expressed that to Deb, wondering what I’d come up with. On the way home, Deb and I chatted a bit about the differences between Barga – the city on the hill – and Fornaci – the city at the bottom of the hill. I said how pretty Fornaci looked in the dark and mist, its lights twinkling in a friendly, seedy kind of way. Deb’s sneer made it powerfully clear that she preferred Barga and would be happy to be walking home to a place in Barga rather than driving to the bottom of the hill, regardless of how pretty I thought the view was.

When we got home, Sandra had prepared another fantastic meal. We joked about the tuna touching the mozzarella and all the cheese I eat. Sandra whined a little about how she’d rather stay home instead of driving up to Barga for a meeting. It was one of those misty nights that’s best spent in front of the fireplace. She drug her feet and stalled, and talked about playing Pictionary. Deb practically pushed Sandra out the door.

As Sandra and Deb were getting their jackets on to leave, there was a knock on the door. One of the neighbors calmly asked for Sandra to please come downstairs and have a look at something. About 2 minutes later Sandra was running up the stairs, telling us to collect as much water as we could, and mumbling something about a “casino” (a big mess). What the neighbor had neglected to mention when he so calmly came to the door is that, while prepping the wall for the next morning, he had drilled directly into the main water pipe that feeds the house. The pipe in the wall that runs through Sandra’s mom’s apartment.

It seems that there were a number of reasons this shouldn’t have happened, including that no pipe is supposed to be in the wall where it was. But It really didn’t matter. We gathered water in all the pots and pitchers and headed downstairs to help. “I think you’ll be able to write tonight. I think it’s going to be a really interesting night,” said Deb walking out the door.

Fortunately, the apartment has tile and marble floors, and has a series of rooms that step-down, eventually leading out into the garden. When we entered the dining room, we found 2-3 inches of standing water.

Kitchen water

Tom and I grabbed brooms, and Deb went to find something to stick in the pipe (kind of like the little boy sticking his finger in the dike, but with a twist). When Deb handed the makeshift plug to the neighbor woman who was clutching a towel to the hole, the woman let go of the pipe, shooting the water directly into Deb’s face.  The water was shooting out of the pipe so hard that when Deb moved, it shot out the door and completely across the street, maybe 20 meters away.  Not letting this get her down, Deb scrounged around and came up with an elegant solution. When she came through the dining room with it, I laughed. She put together some tubing and a funnel, which she held up to the shooting water in order to direct it out the door and onto the ground in a slightly more controlled manner.

In the mean time, Tommy and I had cleared the dining room, put down sawdust to soak up residual moisture, and closed it off. That meant, however, that we had to stand in the hallway and sweep as fast as possible to keep the water away from the closed door and direct the ever-coming water into the basement, where it could make its way out to the garden. We did this for just about an hour. Nonstop. As fast as we could.

If you’re looking for a new workout, try this: turn a garden hose on full blast at the top of a playground slide that is pointing directly into your front door. Then, take an ordinary broom and try to sweep fast enough at the bottom of the slide to keep the water out of your house. Seriously, for you crossfit types, this is going to be an awesome oblique/lat workout.

In addition to offering workout tips, I’d also like to take this opportunity for a gear endorsement. My Vasque Blur Gore-Tex shoes are not only comfortable, but they held up in 3 inches of water for 90 minutes and were totally waterproof. Totally awesome.

Vasque Blur GTX in the field

In the end, someone who was able to patch the pipe showed up. We weren’t able to turn the water off, because someone had cemented over the external shutoff valve. Really great news. But, the guys who fixed the pipe rigged a compression patch from rubber sheeting and zip-ties.

Tubo patch

It totally held all night. Until they started banging away again at 8am.
When we finally walked back upstairs, we sat down for a cup of tea. “You know, this is your fault. You wanted something interesting to write about.” “You’re not blameless. The house knows you want to move to Barga.” “Well, Sandra, you didn’t have to go to your meeting after all, but there was no need to make the pipe explode.”  We spent time blaming each other for the event, truly believing that we were responsible for the evening’s entertainment.

It was nice to affirm each other as powerful women (donne potente) capable of creating our worlds, but we decided that next time, we’ll be a little less passive-aggressive in our creating of things and use our powers for good.

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November 5, 2009   7 Comments