Wednesday, July 27, 2011

La Dolce Far Niente

On my first day in Rome in early June I found myself for the first time in over a year with nothing to do. No obligations. Nothing was required of me. I had to be nowhere. So I decided to do just that. Nothing. Whatever happened would happen. My only goal was to remain in the shade.

Because I lived in Rome many years ago and I return often I felt no need to go sightseeing. In fact that was exactly what I didn't want to do. No tourists. Just me in the back streets where the Romans live.

I wandered for about an hour down into the area of Rome called Piazza Madonna dei Monte. The day was already hot and at a restaurant/cafe called Il Covo I plunked myself down under an arbor. I had front row viewing of the piazza. I took out my journal, my paints, my camera and I went to work. Doing nothing.

After an orange juice and iced coffee, I was still sitting, but I was starting to focus on something before me which was a drinking fountain. It was right in the middle of the piazza and the water was in constant flow. I later learned that these fountains are called Big Nose because they look like, well, big noses.

I began to watch the people coming and going who stopped and took a sip at this fountain. Some bent forward and drank from it. Some washed hands, their fruit, or their feet. Others filled water bottles or dunked their heads. Dogs came to lap. Children to play. Old people to a brief respite from the sun.

It wasn't really a decision but I just began photographing everyone who stopped at the fountain. The fountain for me started to become a kind of real thing - like a person. I felt sorry for it when it was alone or ignored. I was happy when people drank. And the fountain seemed happy to.

By the end of the day I had gone through several espressos, a bowl of pasta, a glass of wine, two bottles of mineral water and taken about a hundred shots. I loved it. I had a great time.

Later when I returned to New York I recalled that wonderful day. As I fought my way into a crowded subway, I thought about how this city where I live is all about moving people from one place to another. New York is about movement. And Rome is all about not moving. Rome is a place where all seats face the piazza and you are more than welcome to stay.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Oh Canada

When it was 104 in New York, I was swimming in Lake Huron. I didn't even know that sewer plants were on fire and records were being set. It was sweet up there with Larry's family. Nice to have another country to go to and I am liking Ontario more and more. I can see why Alice Munro sticks around. At least where we were in Saubel Beach, time seemed to be standing still. My Illinois landscape, along the shores of Lake Michigan, was so similar to this. The same really. On Friday Ted and Lynn, Larry's brother and sister-in-law made a great barbecue. Nieces, nephews, everyone was there. Lots of chicken and corn. Grilled salmon and a Sunset swim. Kate made the best zucchini salad ever. I played pinball with Larry and Kate. They won. I didn't care. We got a milkshake at 11pm. Tasted like childhood. Tasted like home.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Samantha Jean - R.I.P.

This was just one of those moments while floating down the Mississippi. Samantha Jean and Tom, frolicing in the river. I was somewhere downstream, fighting the current and trying to swim back, when this picture was taken. When I finally flung myself on to the beach, Tom and Jerry looked at me, perplexed. "Where were you?"

"I was shouting for help," I told them, but they were busy taking this snap.

"Must'a been to our bad ears," Jerry replied. Both he and Tom had bad left ears.

Samantha Jean was our mascot. A real river rat terrier. Crazy creature, she growled and snapped at me at first. I couldn't believe I'd be sailing with her in a houseboat for four weeks. We grew to trust me over cheese and salami bits that I snuck her when she was on the fly deck through a small window hatch. During the worst of the storms she trembled under my bunk.

We made friends. Tom loved her. He carried her everywhere. He'd never leave her alone on the ship. They slept together in his sleeping bag every night.

In the end Samantha Jean traveled well. She had a good long live and a great trip. She was a good swimmer. And a good sport. She will be missed.