May 26, 2006

and then

My local friends took me out to Porto San Stefano to the sea, a two hour drive for a seafood dinner. I made a huge lasagna for Tina, Miranda and Adrienne (who were arriving while I would be out of town), and then took off for Cinque Terre to meet up with Mike and Eileen. Five days out by the Ligurian sea and a boat trip to Porto Venere were perfectly filled with delicious meals, gelato, and short hikes.

May 20, 2006

Riding Romero

Horseback Riding in Umbria The next day, I went horseback riding in the country.

May 19, 2006

Once again riding

Bike-by shooting Self-PortraitCitta della PieveJump Silhouettes Mt. CetonaPart of the road we rode
Claudia and I went for a long ride in the country, nearly 30km. Beautiful views, a bit rocky in places, steep climbs and fun descending. A perfect Umbrian day.

May 17, 2006

Jump Borghese

Jump Borghese RomaJump Borghese Roma
Cristiano and I jumped in the Borghese Gardens.


Carlo the locksmithThe lock on my door had been giving me trouble for a couple of weeks, but up until two days ago, it was pretty impossible to open and close from the outside. I called my landlady who had me call the locksmith -- who happens to be married to my landlady's flower shop employee.

Carlo came by at nine this morning with a weathered leather bag filled with tools and started to work right away. I left him to his deed after offering a drink and headed upstairs to work. Ten minutes later, I'm called down.

All fixed. "Monteleone non ci sono ladri." He explained. Monteleone doesn't have many thieves. He continued in Italian. "Therefore, turn the lock just two or three times." (It goes up to five.)

Great, thanks, how much do I owe I ask. He shook his head.
"Nothing, maybe next time I see you at the bar, a caffe."

Are people kind or what?

May 16, 2006

A caffe to remember.

"Buona Sera!" is what I call out to every person I pass by in the evenings here. Yesterday, it landed me in Sersina's house for a caffe. If ever I wish I had my camera with me, this was the day.

Sersina is 83 years old, with a beautiful elegant smooth face, few wrinkles, the cutest smile, and white hair collected in a bun. She was walking in her front hallway in her blue flowered housedress when I greeted her. She lit up and clapped her hands in delight. "I thought you'd left town" she exclaimed in Italiano. We small talked and then she asked if I wanted some coffee. "Vieni, vieni," -- come in -- she urged me.

We walked up the first flight of stairs where she took me into an apartment and introduced me to her daughter and granddaughter. Then we continued up a second flight, pausing so she could show me her pictures on the walls, the plants, and decor. She invited me into her kitchen -- I stepped into the 1960s. The walls were covered in groovy tiles with a loopy two-toned "harvest yellow" pattern, two old stoves, complete with an old radio from the era.

Sersina talked to me the entire time she was moving. She pulled down her stovetop espresso maker (a standard in all Italian households), then the coffee, and stood by the open window -- shutters apart -- to put it all together. After about twenty minutes of talk and distraction, she lit the pilot to make our coffee.

We sat at the opposite ends of a chrome and melamine table, covered in a plastic table cloth and chatted about the local cats, her family, her home passed down through four generations -- they are the original owners and the home was built in the 1800s, and all sorts of interesting stories.

Sersina sat at the end of the table facing me, the enormous 1960s stove behind her, and the espresso pot on the right burner. Her hands were crossed on the table and she leaned forward to speak with me.

When the coffee was finished, she reached around to turn the fire off. Another ten minutes of chatting until she stood up to go into the salon to collect two espresso cups, saucers, spoons, and a sugar bowl that she carried on a silver platter. I couldn't have asked for anything more Italian, warmer, or inviting than being in her home at that moment.

I know I constantly mention how KIND and NICE everyone is to me. It's just phenomenal.

May 15, 2006

boy oh boy!

Ashley and Sarah have gone and so have the hopes of all the boys in town. For some reason, they all came out of the woodwork the minute they spotted the belle ragazze. The girls left this morning at 5 a.m. ...and when I opened the door for Stefano, my friend and taxi driver, he pointed to the doorbell: three roses and a note taped to it.

I peeled it off and opened the note, and read in clearly printed English: "Three roses for three beautiful girls. Have a nice journey!"

I turned to Stefano who shrugged with "Italian men."
"It's for them," I explained, and nodded towards my friends. I've been here since January and only meet the optimistic grandfathers. Thankfully, once Ashley and Sarah showed up, all the handsome young guys did too!

May 11, 2006

La dolce vita 2

Four friendsYesterday, Orfeo (far left), one of my favorite locals, turned 80 so he treated Ashley and I to our morning pastries, coffee, and tea. It's constant, the kindness and generosity of the folks here and I find that practically every day, someone offers me coffee, gelato, or whatever I may be having at the local bar & cafe.

I do my best to give back to town what I can. Franco (center right), known as Maestro, is the head of the pro loco here; the town's tourism office. He asked me to take photos during the Festa del Dolce, so I made a cd of about ninety images with video of the marching band. He was pretty pleased, and immediately went out and had every image printed. These guys are so cute.

May 04, 2006

The Saigon of Marguerite Duras - New York Times

You'll find that the NY Times and LA Times run semi-quarterly articles on Vietnam. I hadn't seen one in a little while, and here it is, from April 30: The Saigon of Marguerite Duras - New York Times

May 01, 2006

Happy Birthday ESB!

Happy Lunar New Year!The Empire State Building turns 75 today. Since Friday night, the ESB went dark, so they could light it for one week in white, the original colors of the ESB when it first opened in 1931.

Just last month they lit it up Yellow/White/Yellow for Spring/Easter, Green/Blue/Blue Earth Day and Pink/Pink/Yellow for the Tribeca Film Festival. Here's the lighting schedule for more. I took this photo from my street corner for the Lunar New Year in 2004... also Christmas and Valentine's Day and Independence Day.