Tales of a wandering lesbian

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


Today’s vocab word is “tubo.” It means “pipe“I learned it yesterday morning.  By the end of the day I’d heard it about 100 times.  Here it is in a sentence:

“Il tubo è esploso e l’acqua spruzzata ovunque.”

True story.  More to come…

Happy translating!

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November 4, 2009   3 Comments