This month marks 40 years since I first set foot in Italy. Arriving on the plane from the U.S., landing at Malpensa
(north of Milan), we needed to get a domestic flight from Linate (closer to Milan). This meant a bus ride through parts of Milan to get from one airport to the other.
Having to change airports in a foreign land was in itself an adventure. On that bus, gazing out the window, I realized I wasn’t in “Kansas” anymore. My preconceived notions of Italy, were disappearing like water in the desert. The billboards of naked women advertising something or other, were the final straw. I vowed then and there to accept what is and to make no assumptions. Now, 40 years later, I’ve tried to do this in every new country, new town, new face.
There was never a saying so apt, as “When in Rome, do as the Romans.” So I did.
Starting with an open mind always helps, fate of personalities and timing are also clearly important. Now, 40 years later, my Italian friends are more like family. In that strange paragon that allows us different family roles, sometimes simultaneously. Thus, in Budoia, I am both the oldest son and the younger sibling. It’s great having an older sister. With Gino, I am the younger brother, carefree, always up for an adventure. Slipping from my real life, I cocoon myself from my “normal” responsibilities.
So, in this little corner of Italy, nestled against the Dolomiti, in an area that mixes Friuli with the Veneto, I find myself ensconced in the familiarity of friends who are more than family. The family one chose.
My only jobs here are pretty much limited to opening the next bottle of Prosecco, getting up in time to eat, or my favorite, being the chauffeur (picture Driving Miss Daisy). I love driving and in the western world, much of Europe is still the best. The recent program to change intersections to roundabouts, traffic circles, has made the driving even sweeter. Now every road has been transformed into a F1 track. From Gino’s car showroom to Budoia, a distance of 14 miles, the route takes you thru Pordenone and two other towns, there are only two stoplights. All the rest of the intersections having been converted to the above mentioned circles, (maybe 25). A 20-minute trip during the day with traffic, becomes a 14-minute exercise late at night with empty roads. A pure joy to drive, rain or snow, sun or fog. (Not even on Dauntless have I encountered fog so thick with visibility so bad, less than 20 feet!).
But as usual I digress.
This is post is about friendship or better stated, the value of friendship. Though maybe the driving allows me to be in a space in which I can free my mind to see and appreciate what is? Forse, Perhaps.
Hanging around Gino’s car dealership, waiting for him to finish work, so we can do what we always do, eat! I thought of the last 40 years since I have known Gino. This car dealership is actually Gino’s third. Some years were good, some were not, sort of like Trump losing $20 billion. However, in Italy, one does not get those who did pay taxes to reimburse you for the next 20 years!
In my wanderings, in both body and mind, I noticed a picture portrait hanging on the wall of Gino’s disorganized office. You can tell it’s his office because he has 50 pipes sitting on his desk. My father liked smoking pipes and much like Gino had different pipes or combinations of pipes. But I never understood why he needed more than one and he was certainly not going explain it to me, as he understood I only had a fleeting interest in the answer. (I think there is a lesson here for me in regards to my own nephews!).
But I was touched by that picture on his wall. Oh, I certainly knew who it was.
It’s his friend, or really mentor, Senor Carini from Gino’s first car dealership. I remember meeting and seeing Carini often in the Alfa Romeo dealership that Gino had for 25 years. A tall, very elegant man, with a chiseled face that always had a pleasant smile and a kind word for someone like me in my stumbling Italian.
Back then, Gino was a young wheeler-dealer, (now he is an old wheeler-dealer), but he always deferred to Carini due to the man’s vast experience and steadfast style.
So, it was appropriate that Gino has Carini’s picture on his office wall, while having no other pictures, not even of his devoted wife and brilliant daughter. (though there may be a picture of them on this cluttered desk)
Carini passed away a long time ago. But seeing his picture on the wall reminded me of how faithful Gino has also been to our friendship. Though good times and bad, more family than friend. Always there to help, advise, console, even during times that were not so good for him.
That evening, as I thought of Gino and his life, his successes and disasters, one thing remained firm and fast in his life, his devotion to family and friends. His acknowledgement that his success was due to people like his mentor Carini and his wife and now, also, his daughter.
So now, in his third car dealership, and probably, hopefully, his most successful, his humility is evident for all to see.
Because whose name is on the building? Not his, as it was in the past; but that of his mentor and friend, Carini.
Had Donald Trump had even an iota of this humility, he would be our next President.
Why am I so sad that I am going to miss this big NYC Blizzard?
I do like snow. Why else would I have spent so much time in Alaska!
As a child, I remember waking up and listening to the traffic on West Street below our third floor window. West Street was still cobblestones in those days and full of truck traffic, as the elevated West Side Highway kept most cars off the surface street.
Every once in a while, especially during January and February, I would awake to silence. The snow muffling the noise of the tires on the cobblestones.
During one particularity heavy snow that occurred on a Sunday, my father had planned go to New Hope, PA, where his friend, the Sculptress Selma Burke, had a house and some land. I loved going there. It was always an adventure, with a little stream that had grass growing on the bottom that I was absolutely terrified of.
Selma, not our father, actually taught my brother (Peter, two years younger) and I to hunt. We ate what we shot, the total haul being one woodchuck and one duck, but I felt sad for the duck’s partner and it was the last animal I ever killed.
But on this windy, snowy day, NYC had maybe 12” to 18” inches of snow and I declined going to New Hope, deciding instead to make my own adventure by taking the 10th Ave bus up to Riverside Park with my sled. I did that, walking the mile to 14th to catch the bus that finally came and an OK day sledding.
When my brother and father got home that night, my brother regaled me with tales of blasting through large snow drifts and I was disappointed that I had missed out. A bit strange that I did not go, in that I was the one who accompanied my father on all sorts of trips, in the city and out, never being too bored (sometimes my job was simply to sit in the car, while it was double parked, as my father found various electronic parts he needed). My brother often found much of this time boring, and while at times I did also, I felt it was part of my responsibility in helping my father in any way I could and I liked seeing different things, going to new places.
There was only one other time, that my brother accompanied my father without me, and that was during the summer of 1972. I had decided to stay in Seattle at the UW to attend this oceanography class that actually had us out on Puget Sound doing stuff. But that summer, our father, G. Lee Bost, was working on the last of his three Shaft movies, Shaft in Africa, so my brother got to go on location for a month, while I collected seaweed in Washington. I was not as envious that time. Africa did not sound that appealing to me. Neither did our father by the way, who remarked that he was grateful to be born in the USA no matter how his ancestors got there.
Sadly, our father died in 1992, when I was 41 and it wasn’t until my forties that I started to see how similar I was to my father, in both good and bad ways. A gentle soul, loyal to his friends until the end of time.
But 20+ of snow is always fun in the City. It’s especially interesting watching the MTA put those cable chains on the Articulated buses 24 hours in advance, so the cable are well worn or broken by the time the snow actually arrives.
Then the buses prompt get stuck after the first few inches in any case.
Articulated buses are only good to reduce the number of drivers and the quality of service. Not much else.
But I digress.
I am truly sorry I am not there. Had I been reading the forecast discussions like I used to, I would have had an inkling a few days ago and may have even flown home for the event. Oh well, next time.
Nowadays, I look at the Atlantic Surface Analysis every day. I like getting a feel for the weather and how it changes over time. It will be during the winter that we will follow in Columbus’ tracks and take the Northeast Trade Winds back to the New World.
I did pull out Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Routes last night.